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February 3, 2009

Kentucky locker room erupts after another loss

Darrell Bird
Rivals.com College Basketball
Managing Editor
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Moments after Kentucky lost its third straight game, a convincing 66-57 victory by Mississippi State on Tuesday, the Wildcats quietly made their way off the Rupp Arena court and down the long corridor leading to the locker room.

Then the place erupted.

"We just had a huge confrontation in the back right after the game was over," said sophomore Patrick Patterson. "People said what they felt like needed to be said. People exchanged words, had heart to hearts and said what just needed to be said to get it out there in the open."

The entire roster, by all accounts, contributed.

"Pretty much everybody was saying something, even the guys who didn't play today," Patterson said. "Everyone had an opinion. Everyone had a statement to say whether it was about the game or about individual play or team play."

Patterson declined to give specifics, but he reviewed the themes of the so-called "huge confrontation."

"Just talking about passion, about playing soft, not playing like we have been playing, not playing like Kentucky, about people acting scared. Just a whole variety of things," he said. "No one was scared to say what they felt like needed to be said. No one cared about anybody's feelings. What needed to be said needed to be said."

The one person who did not speak was coach Billy Gillispie.

"Oh yeah, coach was in there," Patterson said. "He just sat back and let it go."

After opening SEC play 5-0, Kentucky had improved to 16-4 overall and moved into the top 25 for the first time this season. But three straight losses, all in games where the Wildcats were favored, has sunk them to 5-3 and in danger of missing the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats still have road trips to Arkansas, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida and home dates with Florida, Tennessee and LSU.

The question that remains is whether the blowup in the locker room will help as Kentucky goes into hiding for seven days before a home date with rival Florida on Feb. 10.

"I think it was desperately needed," Patterson said. "It could have happened after the Ole Miss game. It could have happened after the South Carolina game. But better late than never. Now that it's out there the only thing to do is correct everything and come play."

And play like their basketball season depends on it, because it just might.

"It's a do-or-die situation," Patterson said. "We all believe that we do need to beat Florida. No exceptions. No if, and or buts. We have to win against Florida. We all need to be excited and we all need to be anticipating the Florida game. We all need to have that chip on our shoulder.

"There are a lot of games left. We will turn this around."

Darrell Bird is the editor and general manager of CatsPause.com and The Cats' Pause magazine, the nation's oldest collegiate sports publication. Bird has covered Kentucky athletics since 1981 and joined CatsPause.com in 1997.
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