For much of Wednesday's 84-57 rout of Auburn, things were clicking for the much-maligned Wildcats cagers. Passes led to baskets, deep shots went in and starters got a chance to yuck it up while the human embodiments of lopsided victory sought a fleeting moment of Rupp glory.
But not all was good, the ever-tough-to-please Big Blue Nation remarked. Local beat writers chimed in, too, as if everyone feared these guys would suddenly get cocky with Mississippi State the next foe in line.
Scoring 84 points is nice, we say, but what about those 19 turnovers. A ninth straight win is good, but why didn't you hit your free throws? Contributions from Joe Crawford (21 points) and Ramel Bradley (18 points, 12, rebounds, 7 assists, 1 turnover) are fine and good, but what happened to the hot shot freshmen? Great win, but it's only Auburn.
It seems in the world of UK hoops, nothing is ever enough. But lest you think I'm here to whine about expectations, I am not. Those negatives are realistic problems. Would 19 turnovers against Tennessee or Florida be so easily brushed away? Would 64% shooting from the charity stripe be enough against Bama or LSU? Probably not.
And it's not just us. There's Tubby Smith on Tuesday downplaying the Cats' accomplishments of late, talking about how they are not worthy of a top 25 ranking yet. There's Scott Holsopple, strength coach, doling out bags of wood chips as if to imply that no one takes this team seriously, that they have done nothing to date.
The real question then becomes, will the respect angle work?
For city kids like Bradley and Crawford, such techniques may have strong attraction. Much is made on the playgrounds of respect, attitude and fearlessness in the face of crowded lanes and pavement. For kids with iron stomachs like Jodie Meeks and Woo, such appeals to higher cause of team should reap benefits. But for some players, challenges to their psyche can backfire.
Rhodrick Rhodes famously crumbled under such pressure, as did last year's Cats as a unit. Seemingly more sensitive players like Bobby Perry and Derrick Jasper, quiet types be nature, can sometimes respond to nurture more than pressure. Perry, on this night at least, came to play, with 12 points and a solid night shooting. Jasper, on the other hand, struggled (4 turnovers, 0 assists).
Tubby has a lot of weapons on this team when things are going right. The defense has been a huge boost, with the Auburn Tigers becoming the 10th team in 11 games to shoot under the magic 40% mark. The Tigers didn't even come close (28%).
But for all the positives, a famously fickle fanbase like Kentucky's can, on the long road to the NCAA tournament, struggle with just what to make of its team. Are we allowed to get excited yet? If not, when? If we see things we like, dare we assume they will last?
For now, it may be enough to revel in this squad's improvements. While there will be those intent on pointing out what's wrong, perhaps some will take solace in saying, for one night, "The Boys did OK."