Haith says UK, Mizzou share same fight

Frank Haith is aware that Saturday's showdown between his Missouri Tigers and the Kentucky Wildcats will be billed as a huge opportunity for UK to improve its postseason resume. He's selling his team the exact same line.

Frank Haith is aware that Saturday's showdown between his Missouri Tigers and the Kentucky Wildcats will be billed as a huge opportunity for UK to improve its postseason resume.

And then he'll remind you that he's selling the exact same line to his squad as it travels to Lexington for a 9 p.m. tipoff on Saturday at Rupp Arena.

"I think we need the same thing, too," Haith said. "I don't think any team – well, obviously there's some top teams in the country that feel like they're comfortable (with their NCAA seeding) but I think we're all trying to improve ourselves, our resumes.

"I'm not looking at do we have enough or don't have enough. I think we've got to continue to fight like we're not in either. We need a great quality road win, and we haven't had that yet."

Missouri (19-7, 8-5 SEC) is No. 18 in the Sagarin ratings. The Tigers own an impressive win over Florida, but that came at home and represents their lone win over a current 25 club. They are 1-6 this season on the road with losses at Ole Miss, Florida, LSU, Texas A&M and Arkansas in conference play and the lone win coming at Mississippi State.

Meanwhile, Kentucky (18-8, 9-4 SEC) is 13-2 at home, but owns an 0-3 mark against current Top 25 teams and a 1-5 mark against the current Top 50. Making matters more difficult for the Wildcats is the loss of star center Nerlens Noel to a season-ending knee injury, which means the NCAA selection committee has been evaluating them as a "new team" of sorts in the last two games. One of those was a 30-point loss at Tennessee, the other a four-point home win Wednesday ngiht over Vanderbilt.

"They played a lot better," Haith said of the Wildcats' performance against the Commodores. "You could see them being a lot more relaxed.

"The first time you play without a player as impactful as Nerlens was, you knew it would just be tough for them. You could tell that the team was more relaxed, more comfortable the second time out. I was impressed with how they went at it, how they competed. We know we're going to get Kentucky's very best on Saturday."

Haith's staff has reviewed film from many of UK's games this season, but he's only watched the last two personally due to the circumstances surrounding Noel's absence.

"Obviously, they're going to be different without him in the lineup in terms of how they play," he said. "I've just focused on that a little bit."

The Mizzou boss anticipates UK pushing the tempo with a new-look lineup.

"The biggest thing is, they're going to put the ball on us and attack us in transition," he said. "That's the biggest thing that concerns me, particularly in that building. They're going to run it, they're going to run the ball. Our transition defense hasn't been great all year. It's getting better, but that's my biggest concern, our transition defense against them."

He also expects the Rupp Arena faithful to rise to the occasion in support of their team in desperate need of a so-called "quality win."

"I was at Miami, we played there, I think it was '07 maybe or '08. We had a good game. We went in there and won the game," Haith said of a 73-67 win by the Hurricanes over Billy Gillispie's Wildcats in December of 2008. "But in terms of the experience, the fans were so knowledgeable, just the way they handled themselves. I remember after the game, coming out, there were still a ton of fans there to greet the Kentucky players with their radio deal. I found them to be very knowledgeable about the game."

AllWildcats Top Stories