No. 4 Kentucky looks forward to seeing No. 2 Gonzaga

Nov. 20 (Reuters) – A massive top-five collegiate basketball match far out west on Sunday features two teams that have had tough moments over the past week.

The University of Kentucky worked double overtime before losing to Michigan State 86-77 at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis on Tuesday night. Great Britain was able to reunite against overwhelmed South Carolina State 106-63 on Thursday night.

UK sat on a plane to Spokane, Washington on Friday morning in preparation for a Sunday match against No. 2 Gonzaga. This is a neutral site game located in the backyard of Gonzaga’s campus and fan base.

The Zags had their own stressful times, dating back to Friday, November 11, when they survived a last-second shot to beat Michigan State 64-63 in an aircraft carrier game. They then traveled to Austin for a return date with Texas, where the No. 11 Longhorns blew them out 93-74 on Wednesday night.

Britain was happy to get another game between Michigan State and Gonzaga to regain winning focus.

“What I told you, I want your mentality to be, we beat Michigan State, where would you feel right now?” asked Britain coach John Calipari after South Carolina State erupted. “One out of bounds game, one free throw, one missed shot here, late game, no execution, we didn’t play great. Should have won anyway, could have won. I give credit to the state of Michigan, Tom Izzo is a great friend, but I want them to have that mentality, you played well enough to win this game.

“Let’s assume you won it. How would you feel if you went to Spokane right now? Because half of it is the mentality. We had to take shots today. You know we just did how many threesomes up there. Today we took shots. We only lasted 24 (3s). But we took shots. And that’s what you need for this game. But there’s going to be a lot, you know, they’re going to be a lion now because they just lost in Texas. So you will be – this is going to be a tough game for us to win. That’s the great thing about November, trying to learn about your team and I’m still learning about my team.

Chris Livingston may be a fresh forward for Britain but he understands how difficult the environment will be for Britain who basically play at Gonzaga and that will multiply as the Zags take a huge loss.

“If any top team takes a loss like that, they’ll bounce back,” said Livingston, who had 13 points against South Carolina State. “They will come with power and they will come with fight. You won’t just lie down. So all we have to do is come out, understand who we are, how to play against ourselves, play to be up to the competition and play at the level that Gonzaga will play at, because they’re definitely going to come out energized, solid and ready to play. So we have to do that too.

Some may be tempted to think of this as a matchup between Oscar Tshiebwe and Drew Timme. Tshiebwe is the returning international of the year, while Timme is certainly a contender this season. Your numbers will definitely draw attention in the game.

Tshiebwe excelled on his return to action against Michigan State, recording 22 points, 18 rebounds and four blocked shots before fouling in first overtime Tuesday night. Another productive game from Tshiebwe and several others in the British line-up will be needed to secure a win against West.