By LARRY VAUGHT
Ever wonder what opposing players might chat about on the court during the closing minutes of a hard-fought overtime game?
Kentucky freshman Archie Goodwin and Missouri point guard Phil Pressey said a lot after a Pressey turnover late in overtime that led to free throws for UK during the Wildcats’ 90-83 win Saturday.
Since Goodwin had also helped force Pressey into a miss on potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation, I thought maybe Goodwin was telling him the defense wasn’t going to stop. But I never imagined what the two were actually talking about.
“He actually was asking me a question about a statement he said I made in the newspaper. I just had to explain it to him,” said Goodwin.
Say what? Pressey, who had 27 points and 10 assists, was worried about something Goodwin said Friday during a key time in Saturday’s make-or-break game for UK.
“Yeah,” Goodwin smile and said.
Was he asking about Goodwin saying he felt UK point guard Ryan Harrow was better than Pressey?
“That was it. I had to tell him what I had to tell him,” Goodwin said.
Actually, Goodwin and his teammates had already told Pressey plenty with their overall play in this game. But for Goodwin, the target of almost constant UK fan criticism this year, it was an especially sweet win for a lot of reasons.
First, he made a 3-pointer. That might not sound big, he had not made one since Jan. 12. In 11 games since then he was 0-for-13 from 3-point range and he missed two more in the first half against Missouri before nailing one early in the second half.
“It felt real good. It felt like I released a monkey off my back,” said Goodwin, who also hit his only other 3-point shot in the second half.
Second, he overcame a scoreless first half that featured three turnovers to score 18 points in the second half when he was 7-for-10 shooting.
“I wasn’t aggressive in the first half like I should have been. At halftime Coach (John Calipari) just told me to come out with a strong second half and gave me encouragement. I just came out and played my game,” he said.
Third, he didn’t let seven turnovers put him into a funk. He had an assist, one steal and three rebounds — and never quit playing hard.
“Earlier this season, or just maybe a few games ago, a lot of times if we made mistakes we put our head down,” Goodwin said. “That’s one thing that gives the other team a lot more confidence when they see it. But when we come out and make mistakes and keep our head up, and just make up for what we did it demoralizes the other team. I mean we fought hard. That is what it ultimately came down to. We made a lot of mistakes, but at the end we just wanted it more than they did. I think we showed a lot of toughness. This game right here just showed that we can do it.”
Fourth, Goodwin was eager for the challenge when Calipari put him on Pressey for Missouri’s final possession in regulation and he combined with Alex Poythress to force Pressey to take an awkward shot left of the basket.
“Coach just put me on him, but I accepted the challenge. I just wanted to use my length on him and make things hard for him,” Goodwin said. “He was having a good game. So I was like hoping, ‘Please don’t go in. Please don’t go in.”
Ironically, Goodwin has at times failed to spot open teammates when he’s had the ball. After Pressey’s miss in the final seconds, UK’s Julius Mays got the rebound and missed about a 40-foot shot. But Goodwin was open near the UK basket and Mays had time to have thrown him the ball.
“I looked open but Julius was not aware at the time. We got the win either way, so it didn’t matter,” Goodwin said.
That’s the kind of talk teammates like to hear. Cover for each other just like Goodwin did when asked about the Pressey-Harrow matchup, even if Pressey didn’t like it.
Besides, Goodwin owes Mays, who had 21 of his 24 points in the second half.
“There is not another person like Julius. He’s a great leader and a great big brother to me. He’s like my best friend,” Goodwin said. “He is just always there for encouragement. Sometimes when things aren’t going our way, he is always the person that pulls me aside to try and get my head back right. I am going to miss him after this season is over. He is going to be the type of guy you will have a long life relationship with because you don’t find too many people like that.”
Of course, when Goodwin plays like he did in the second half, there are not an abundance of players quite like him. Even he had trouble denying that.
“It is pretty hard to beat that second half I played, I played a pretty good second half. I don’t even like speaking high on myself, so that just lets you know how I feel about it,” he laughed and said.
That second half play included a statement one-handed dunk after his first 3-pointer that ignited the Rupp Arena crowd.
“That just was me being aggressive. I came out the first half and didn’t have a good half at all. The second half, after I made the 3 it just gave me a lot more confidence in myself . Then I added a little something special to it (the dunk) to get the crowd going,” Goodwin said.
Maybe Pressey should have just ask him about that play, too.