Hornets Players Dish on Their Most-Hated College Rivals
By Sam Perley
College basketball takes over the sporting world every year during the month of March, pulling in viewers and followers from all different walks of life. With the annual NCAA Tournament set to tip off this week, a handful of Hornets gave some firsthand insight on the fiercest rivalries they took part in during their collegiate playing days.
Kemba Walker (Connecticut, 2009-11) - Rival: Syracuse
Best Game vs. Syracuse: Big East Tournament Semifinals on March 11, 2011. Walker finishes with 33 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and six steals in a 76-71 overtime win over the Orange.
"I hated playing against Syracuse. I hated playing against that zone. I never really played well against them. I might have had a few good games against those guys, but for the most part, not so much. I was never really looking forward to playing against them."
"There were so many big games that went on while I was in school in our conference. Louisville was a matchup that everybody looked forward to. Georgetown, Pitt, Marquette - it was just so competitive. I would think everyone would say Syracuse is probably our rival."
Cody Zeller (Indiana, 2011-13) - Rival: Kentucky
Best Game vs. Kentucky: Dec. 10, 2011. Zeller tallies 11 points and seven rebounds as Indiana knocks off the top-ranked Wildcats, 73-72, following a three-point buzzer-beater by Christian Watford.
"We won an ESPY on that one - best shot of the year. That was a fun night. Definitely memorable. It comes up every once and awhile [with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who played at Kentucky from 2011-12]."
"Indiana-Purdue is always the big rivalry, historically. I always trash talked the Purdue fans because I had a good record against them while I was there. The tougher matchup for us was always Kentucky. They beat us my freshman year in the NCAA Tournament and they were the number one team in the country that year. Indiana-Kentucky is always a tough rivalry as well."
Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin, 2011-15) - Rival: Michigan State
Best Game vs. Michigan State: March 1, 2015. In his final home game ever at Wisconsin, Kaminsky records a season-high 31 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks in a 68-61 win over the Spartans.
"There were a lot of teams, but personally, Michigan State was a big one for me. Especially my first couple years in the league, they were the best team, going to Final Fours and stuff like that. When I was a freshman, they had Draymond Green and a really good team. That was the team I always wanted to beat. Early on in my career, they used to beat us up pretty good, so later on in my career, that's the team I wanted to go after."
Marvin Williams (North Carolina, 2004-05) - Rival: Duke
Best Game vs. Duke: March 6, 2005. Williams notches nine points and seven rebounds off the bench as UNC rallies from nine down in the final three minutes to beat the Blue Devils, 75-73. He also converted a go-ahead, three-point play with 17 seconds left on the clock to put the Tar Heels up for good.
"That was probably one of my favorite memories ever in basketball. I think we were down nine with like two minutes and change to play. We took a timeout and coach [Roy Williams] told us to just hang in there and stick with it. We stuck to what we did best. We defended and made plays at the other end."
"I didn't really like Duke before I got to Chapel Hill, so Chapel Hill was kind of the perfect place for me to be. Much respectful for those guys though. I think I was a Carolina guy at heart, so it worked out for me perfectly."
Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut, 2010-12) - Rival: Louisville
Best Game vs. Louisville: Big East Tournament Final on March 12, 2011. Lamb finishes with 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks as Connecticut knocks off the Cardinals, 69-66, for an unprecedented fifth win in five days.
"The team I didn't like playing was probably Louisville. They pressed the whole game. They're just a real tough team to play. They killed us every time except in the 2011 Big East Championship when it counted."
Treveon Graham (Virginia Commonwealth, 2011-15) - Rival: Richmond
Best Game vs. Richmond: Atlantic 10 Tournament Quarterfinals on March 13, 2015. Graham tallies nine points and eight rebounds in a 70-67 victory over the Spiders. VCU went on to win its first-ever A-10 Conference Tournament with Graham being named MVP.
"I would say Richmond. They're right up the street. The first time we played them [my freshman year], we actually won. From then on, it was back and forth, back and forth. We won the series while I was there. No matter what year it was, playing Richmond was a hectic game and always a good game to watch."
Malik Monk (Kentucky 2016-17) - Rival: Louisville/North Carolina
Best Game vs. North Carolina: Dec. 17, 2016. Monk erupts for a freshman school-record 47 points as Kentucky pulls outs a 103-100 victory over the Tar Heels. The two teams met again in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament with North Carolina connecting on a last-second shot to advance to the Final Four.
"Louisville. It comes with [going to Kentucky]. I didn't really hate anybody. North Carolina after they hit that shot [in the NCAA Tournament]. It was just those two. I didn't really do the hate stuff [with SEC schools]."
Steve Clifford (Maine-Farmington, 1979-83) - Rival: Saint Joseph's College of Maine
Best Game vs. Saint Joseph's College of Maine: 1981-82 Season. Clifford tallies eight points against the rival Monks.
"For us, it was St. Joseph's of Maine. I remember my junior year when I went off for eight points at St. Joe's of Maine. If I scored eight in college, that means there was like three or four technicals because I used to shoot the technical free throws. We played in the 40's, there was no three-point line, no shot clock and I was a point guard on a team where I wasn't that good and we pounded the ball. [Hornets Radio Broadcaster] Steve [Martin] knows my coach. He was a great coach and we played old-school basketball. That ball got inside. I literally [would be on the court] 40 minutes and maybe shoot twice. That's how we played and I couldn't shoot that well."