"I tell my team this all the time. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems or as good as it seems. You have to keep playing, keep believing and never give up.
"You look in this (media) room you would think we just played a big basketball game (laugh).
"First off I want to say how proud I am of our basketball team. It wasn't who they beat but how they beat them. Our team came out the first eight and ten minutes and were really not used to playing in an atmosphere like that. For whatever reason, we did not play very loose. We played uptight and basically took ourselves out of the game. The second half was a totally different tale. To our kids' credit they chopped and chopped away and it was just an unbelievable effort to get themselves back into that basketball game.
"Tubby Smith does an unbelievable job. I thought his team came in here playing as well as anybody in the country. Believe me, that is still the team to beat in the SEC. They had Duke beat on the road and, basically, have blown out everybody that they have played. Today, our kids found a way to do it and I'm awfully proud of them."
In the first half, Marcus Campbell and Mario (Austin) seemed to be talking to their teammates trying to tell them to get them the ball.
"I think we turned the ball over the first three possessions and it was 10-0. When we tried to get it in the post we turned it over. We felt like the part of their defense that we needed to exploit was in the post. We didn't do a very good job of that in the first half. The second half was a different ballgame. I thought that we got the ball inside and that Mario Austin went to war. There was no question he was the best big man on the floor in the second half.
"Here is a telling stat, Kentucky was the number one rebounding team in the nation coming into the game. I think they were out-rebounding their opponents by 12. We found a way to out-rebound them by 8. That is a huge stat and that goes into the effort category. We ended up with 23 offensive rebounds."
How much of a boost was Mario's three-point shot?
"There was no question that was a shot you had to make to keep playing. That was a basketball play. You have to have players make those kind of plays. We make our free throws before that we wouldn't have been in that situation. This team has found a way to do that this season. When the breaking point came in a game, this team has found ways to step up and make plays and win games."
How significant was that period when Tubby (Smith) got the technical, you score, then steal the ball?
"We were even on technicals (laugh)."
Talk about the zone that you used.
"We thought coming into this game that we wanted to zone some. We wanted to change defenses. Kentucky has been shooting the ball well lately. Prince has been shooting it well all year long. Bogans and Fitch have just starting shooting it well. We wanted to see if they could do it on the road. Plus, when you play zone, it keeps Prince out of the post. When you play zone, he is totally in the perimeter. We didn't want that matchup in the post all night long. I don't think Prince got a lot of post feed points."
Derrick seemed to take over the game with athletic ability.
"Derrick wasn't Derrick Zimmerman in the first half, especially the first ten minutes. He really relaxed midway in the second half of that basketball game. He started finishing plays and passing the basketball. That is Derrick Zimmerman. Our team has to feed off of Derrick Zimmerman. We are so much better when he plays well. In the first half we fed off of Derrick Zimmerman and it wasn't positive."
Question about national attention.
"We don't worry about national attention. I just tell our team to keep playing and winning basketball games and everything else will take care of itself."
Talk about the team defense that you guys played to keep Kentucky from getting a shot at the end of the game.
"We were into them. Michael Gholar (slight laugh) is not an easy guy to get away from. Kentucky does a special thing for Prince at the end of the game when they screen for him with that point guard. Our guys recognized it and handled it very well. We kept Prince from taking that game over. Most games at Kentucky, he takes them over at some point in the game. Tonight, when that game was on the line, especially in the second half, he never took the game over. I think it was a credit to our defense. I don't think they got easy looks, especially Prince. I think that it is a credit to Michael Gholar because he was up in him."
Have you been a part of a comeback like that before?
"We have probably been down 16 before and come back. But never against a team of the caliber of the University of Kentucky. That is what makes it so special."
What did you tell them at halftime?
"There was not a whole lot to say. You are down 16 and for sure nobody expects you to win. Take a deep breath and let's just go out and play. Chop away at the lead."
How important was the crowd?
"It was a huge factor both halves. In the first half against Kentucky, we hadn't played in an emotional atmosphere like that. I thought it affected us that way some. In the second half, when we were relaxed and needed the energy, we fed off of the crowd. It was an unbelievable crowd. That is the kind of crowd we need every game. They helped us win the basketball game today."
You now have to turn around and go to Arkansas Tuesday.
"Everybody understands how tough our first 8 games are. It is an unbelievable early schedule. Now, we have to go to play an excellent Arkansas team at Fayetteville on Tuesday. That will be a very difficult chore for us. But at the same time, it is an excellent opportunity for our basketball team."
Did the Cincinnati game help your team prepare for this game?
"The Cincinnati game didn't have the emotion of this game because we were playing in front of 1,500 people. Playing a team like Cincinnati from a standpoint of executing, yes it helped up."
"That was a hard fought game. I certainly want to compliment the Bulldogs of Mississippi State. I thought Rick did a great job of keeping his kids focused. It was a game of two halves. Obviously, we played the wrong half. I thought we had some chances to withstand it and get a shot at the end of the game, but we didn't. I thought that Mario (Austin) was the difference. We had no answer for him. We couldn't stop him from getting the ball inside. I really thought that Derrick Zimmerman was outstanding. It was a very gallant effort by Mississippi State.
"The momentum shifted after I got the technical. We didn't respond to the toughness. It was a lot like the game against Western (Kentucky). Mississippi State's aggressiveness really took control of the game in the second half.
"It was disappointing that we played so well in the first half and then come out and play so poorly in the second half."
Talked about playing well in the first half.
"I thought we were doing a good job defensively, we were playing at the intensity needed. We didn't play with that same intensity and urgency in the second half, but they had a lot to do with that. After they went to that zone, we couldn't find a way to get the ball inside. And we didn't seem to be able to get Mario (Austin) in foul trouble. We had some careless, careless turnovers that cost us the game."
Talked about Mario Austin three-point shot.
"That was a big shot. He made a clutch basket. Great players do that."
Talked about this being their first game on their opponents floor.
"I thought it had something to do with it. We saw our players get a little nervous in this type environment. This team has played in some big games, but this was their first real hostile arena that we have ventured into."
Talked about his three-pointer.
"I had glanced at the shot clock while I was jogging down the floor. I just stepped up to the line and knocked the trey ball out."
Were you and Marcus trying to tell you teammates something in the first half?
"We were telling them that they were fronting topside and if they reverse the ball a lot it would be open. I think that Coach Stansbury told them at halftime if they reversed the ball it would be open on the opposite side."
At what part of the second half did you feel that they can't stop me?
"I would say when we cut it to 12. I really felt that I turned it up then. I knew what we had to do to get this win. I had to go to work inside and create for other people and get some rebounds."
What did they do early to get so far ahead?
"We were uptight. We couldn't get any shots to fall for us. We couldn't get in our rhythm."
"In overtime I told the guys we weren't going to lose. I looked everyone of them in the eye and told them it is our game to win. They looked at me and said let's go win.
"Ontario Harper was the man who got us going when he came in the game and made that three. We were struggling bad. When he hit that three, that just kind of opened things up for us."
When you got it inside double digits do you think that Kentucky kind of changed what they were doing?
"I think they got scared a little bit because they hadn't played on the road. All of their games had been at home or really neutral site home games. I think they got rattled. I don't really think they realized how good we are at home or how good we were overall. They did a lot of talking on the internet, talking about how we were a fluke."
Five players played 32 minutes or more during the game. You had to be tired. Talk about how much energy you got from the crowd. "We aren't going to show how tired we are while the game was going on. Once we got to that sideline we will probably show it. The adrenalin from the crowd helped a lot. They were up on their feet all night long. I take my hat off to the crowd. They were great."
You had those early turnovers, then you seem to turn it on. What turned it around for you?
"I was too uptight. I just told myself this is what you live for and you are messing up right now. You are too uptight, just relax and play your game. I saw my brother (in the crowd) and he had his hands up trying to tell me to settle down. I got it going in the second half. My brother, Dale Zimmerman, just graduated from Grambling State University and now works in Dallas, Texas. He has seen all of my home games except for one this year."
Talk about Mario Austin's three-point shot.
"His shot was a big-time shot. Big-time players wait for big-time games to make shots like that. They were talking how good their big man was inside, but we have one of the best big men in the nation too."
What does this victory do for the Mississippi State team?
"It think it gives us more respect than we have been getting."
Derrick Zimmerman mentioned how important your three was in getting Mississippi State back into the game. Talk about that. "Evidently it came up big for us. We hadn't scored for a couple of minutes. It was there for me to shoot and fortunately it went in."
How much did the crowd help the team?
"The fans coming out let us know they appreciated what we have been doing. It made us play that much harder."
You guys have an extremely tough eight games to start the SEC schedule. How much does this game help the team prepare for the next seven games in the SEC?
"People have been saying that we haven't been playing anybody. They can't say that anymore. We know we have to show people that this game wasn't a fluke. We have to come out Tuesday with the same intensity."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.