"I just think our team needs to stay focused and not let scoring droughts take us out of the game like we did the first time."
Kentucky's players apparently were putting on their "game faces" Wednesday. The Wildcats (19-11) are playing in the tourney's opening round for the first time since 1979.
Moss: "We are focused"
Seniors Ravi Moss, Brandon Stockton and Patrick Sparks represented UK at Wednesday's press conference. All three offered brief answers to questions and looked about as happy as they did in the final minutes of Sunday's home loss to Florida.
"We are focused. We are trying to put our game faces on," Moss said.
"We're happy to be here. We are just trying to get ready for practice," Stockton said. "It is kind of weird playing (the first day). In my four years, we've always played (the first game) on Friday."
Smith knows Mississippi will be better with Curtis, especially after watching his team get "manhandled" inside by Florida Sunday.
"We've got to do our best to pressure the ball and help our interior people. One man is not going to stop him in the paint," Smith said. "We've got to make him play both ends. I know the effort he'll give after not getting to play at Kentucky."
South Carolina coach Dave Odom said Curtis' presence could make a huge difference in the game.
"He is one of the better true low post players in the league. They are a team that is dangerous for a lot of reasons, and he's one big reason. He's one you have got to account for because he's talented and skilled," Odom said.
Morris is Cats' "big guy"
Kentucky sophomore center Randolph Morris is shooting 62.4 percent from the field in SEC play, the second best mark in the conference. He's averaging 13.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.
"He is their big guy," Curtis said. "I've heard he's tough, but I plan on having a good game."
"I think we've got to be really physical with Morris and try to keep him off the low block. Obviously, being a big guy, he can run and we have to eliminate him getting easy baskets," Barnes said.
The Wildcats will have sophomore guard Ramel Bradley available for the first time since he broke his left hand before the Ole Miss game. Smith confirmed Wednesday that he had "looked good in practice" and he was at full speed in the team's workout here.
"He should add depth, scoring, athleticism," Smith said.
Smith knows another win or two would help UK's NCAA Tournament resume, especially after the 15-point loss to Florida.
"There have been some games that we have stunk it up, but pretty much we have competed all year long," Smith said. "We have had a lot of miscues and there's reason for us to be playing with some urgency and with a sense of pride that we need to play better."
Not happy with season
Smith says Kentucky's goal, as always, was to compete for the national title when the season started. "That is a given," he said.
He says "nobody is happy" with the season Kentucky has had.
"I feel we should be better with the talent we have. We just have not done it. I am not making excuses," Smith said. "
* Kentucky is 5-0 all-time at the Gaylord Entertainment Center here, including three wins in the 2001 SEC Tournament here. The Wildcats are 34-4 in SEC tourney play since the league expanded to 12 teams in 1992.
* The Wildcats had just 24 deflections in Sunday's loss to Florida. They are averaging 32.4 per game. Rajon Rondo had seven deflections but Ravi Moss and Joe Crawford had only one and Patrick Sparks did not have any.
* RekalinSims has drawn a team-high 16 charges and Sheray Thomas has 12.