Before he even took questions after his team’s 85-79 loss at No. 22 Kentucky, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury opened his media conference talking about the technical foul he received after a shooting foul was called at the end of the first half. The result ended in a completely irate Stansbury and five free throws from Kentucky freshman guard Brandon Knight, which turned a five-point MSU lead into a one-point halftime deficit for the Wildcats.
“I didn’t help our team any with that last three seconds before halftime and don’t ask me about things because I’m not…I learned my lesson,” Stansbury said. “So don’t you guys go there with me. I’ll tell you that before you get up to the podium.”
Things? One would have to make the assumption that those things are a perceived favoritism toward the Kentucky program by conference officials. After Stansbury’s long-winded argument over the last few seconds of the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament Final where the result ending in the Bulldogs head coach writing a $30,000 check to the SEC office in Birmingham, he has been very protective to not issue statements to fan the flames of this rivalry.
Before that game in March where MSU was .1 seconds away from a back-to-back NCAA Tournament berth, Stansbury opened up the 2009-10 season discussing his views on a favoritism toward an NCAA ruling toward UK point guard John Wall and the lack of movement with his forward Renardo Sidney.
“We’re going to do a little more research into this game about counting or not counting, if you know what I mean,” Stansbury said in Oct. 2009.
Then this preseason during the SEC Media Day, Stansbury made it known that he and Calipari differed on the viewpoint of center Enes Kanter.
Not long after that Media Day, Stansbury spoke at the Starkville Rotary Club, which included a speech about how former Kentucky head coach Adolph Rupp would “rather go to hell than to Starkville”, the Bulldogs head coach opened with this one-liner about his Feb. 15 matchup with the Wildcats on ESPN.
“Thank you but the problem is – I’ve got to go to Rupp (Arena) this year,” Stansbury said followed by instant laughter. “I think you’ve seen I’ve probably stirred them up a little bit here in the last week.”
It should be noted Stansbury has a career record of 4-12 against Kentucky and all of these comments over the last two calendar years suggests he has a distinct opinion that the Wildcats have gotten historical favoritism and therefore the question is begged….does that affect the way the Bulldogs 13-year head coach coaches against the Wildcats? It’s a question that I promise The SDN Bulldog Blog will approach Stansbury with during the next media opportunity at Humphrey Coliseum when the time is appropriate.
Back to the play at the end of the half Tuesday night…..
Kentucky head coach John Calipari admitted that since he knew Mississippi State had fouls to give – he was going to try to smartly steal some free throws by getting his players to throw the ball at the basket when they were fouled by an MSU player.
“I want you to understand I told Brandon to shoot the ball, they’re going to foul you,” Calipari said. “I told him to shoot it. He didn’t shoot the first one. I looked at him and said, Do you understand what I’m telling you to do? They are going to foul you. Shoot the ball. They almost didn’t call it. But I was telling him to shoot the ball. So it was a good call because they were going to foul, so just shoot it. So what if it’s at halfcourt, that means you get three shots. He didn’t shoot the first one. I looked. We’re doing some of that. At the end of this game, we miss free throws. If we make those, it still is what it is. The air ball shot, two turnovers, what are we doing? Let me tell you why they did it. My thing with this team, forget about the score, let’s execute. Don’t look at the score. I’ll look at the score. You just play and execute. So obviously they weren’t looking at the score. They just were shooting balls, trying to make plays. So they’re listening to me anyway.”
Immediately after the call, Mississippi State play-by-play man Jack Cristil uttered the ridiculous phrase on the radio broadcast “that only happens at Rupp Arena against the University of Kentucky”.
Here’s what some players from both sides said after the game about the momentum switch immediately after Stansbury’s technical:
“Yes, that was a big play, three free throws and then the technical leads to a big play,” Kentucky freshman guard Terrance Jones said.
Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight:
“The first time Coach Calipari told me to shoot the ball because he knew they were going to foul, and I failed to do so, and it kind of caught me off guard. I wasn’t really focusing, and the next time he said ‘do you understand? This time they are going to foul you.’ And I was like ‘okay, I got you coach.’ He tried to foul me, and as I saw him coming I just tried to throw it up towards the rim. The ref saw that and gave us the foul shots.”
On if he was surprised he got the call…
“Not really. I knew Coach Calipari had a reason for me doing it (shooting the ball from halfcourt). I have seen it happen before where they know guys are about to foul them and guys just act like they are about to shoot. I thought the coach (Rick Stansbury) wouldn’t agree with it, obviously.”
Mississippi State senior forward Kodi Augustus:
“After the steal, I just heard him say to shoot it. I don’t know what happened, but I didn’t think it was a shooting foul. Everybody was just belligerent over the technical foul. It didn’t really give us any momentum that we needed going into halftime. It was a tough call.”
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