COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP)
Earnest Ross doesn't think he's being overlooked.
"Man, I'm just here to win," the Missouri guard said. "Regardless of who gets the credit, we all just want to win."
Teammates Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson have claimed most of the attention this season, but Ross' last-minute 3-pointer Tuesday helped give the Tigers (16-4, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) their first win at Arkansas in seven attempts.
The Auburn transfer finished with 24 points in the 75-71 victory, a performance he would like to replicate against No. 11 Kentucky (15-5, 5-2) on Saturday. The Wildcats are 5-0 all-time against Missouri - including last year's 90-83 overtime win at Rupp Arena - but the Tigers are 43-2 at home under third-year coach Frank Haith.
Ross averages 14.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, the latter ranking first among SEC guards. While saying he didn't need a confidence boost, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior admitted his shooting was slightly off in only hitting 2 of 15 3-pointers in the four games prior to Arkansas.
"Certain guys get talked about more than others," Brown said. "That's life on every team. But to his credit, he's not the guy who worries about that kind of stuff. He's the same way every game."
Brown tends to stay level-headed, so much so that Haith said he'd like to see the junior display more emotion on the court. Brown leads the SEC with 19.8 points per game and has scored at least 20 points in five straight games.
Throw in Clarkson's 18.5-point average, and Missouri has three guards capable of producing big nights, Haith said. At least one of them will have to step up if the Tigers want to tie Kentucky in the league standings.
"If you play this game and you're a competitor, you've got to embrace these opportunities," Haith said. "You've got to really get excited about having a chance to compete in this kind of game."
The Wildcats are seeking an answer to their road woes, which continued Tuesday with an 87-82 setback at LSU. All five of Kentucky's losses have come away from home, where it plays three of its next four.
Players called a meeting after the game to discuss being more unselfish, something coach John Calipari has preached all season to what he calls the youngest team he's ever managed.
"What it means to lead is to serve everyone else," Calipari said. "So when someone says there's no leadership, there's no one serving another player on the team. All their emotions are tied to how they're playing."
Center Dakari Johnson said players are still learning to trust each other and apologized during the meeting for their actions on the court, hoping that airing grievances will help turn the tide on the road.
Guard James Young scored 23 points and blocked a career-high five shots Tuesday, but Kentucky yielded 29 points to LSU forward Johnny O'Bryant III. Missouri doesn't possess anyone as dominant in the paint, but the Wildcats will have to contend with the Tigers' perimeter players.
"The combined three of their guards are as good as we'll play in or outside of our league," Calipari said.
Kentucky leads the SEC with 42.4 rebounds per game and averages 10.6 more boards than opponents. All five projected starters are listed as 6-foot-6 or taller, and Haith labeled rebounding as his biggest concern against the Wildcats.
Kentucky hopes its length will help it regain the composure it displayed during a three-game winning streak prior to playing LSU. Forward Alex Poythress said the loss surprised him, but that the players-only meeting helped put the night behind them.
"It doesn't get in our heads," Poythress said. "A game is a game no matter where you play it."