Saturday was the feel-good win this program desperately needed.
Going into the day, Kentucky was 8-2 with no real resume win, and the young Wildcats were also 0-2 away from Rupp Arena. Facing a top-10 North Carolina team, there wasn’t a lot of belief that Kentucky was capable of winning a game like this, at least at this stage of the regular season.
Well, the Kentucky team we saw Saturday not only looked like a legitimate Final Four contender, but it even showed flashes of the dominant team we saw four times in the Bahamas.
After a day to digest the win, John Calipari sent a long message to the Big Blue Nation that everyone should read:
#BBN, I’ve got to tell you now after yesterday’s game: Don’t go crazy! Don’t lose your mind over one game. As I’ve said all along, it’s a process. We win or we learn. Nothing has changed no matter the results (although I should mention that Seton Hall won at Maryland yesterday!).— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) December 23, 2018
Yesterday we played harder than we’ve played all year and we played unselfish. We had a lot of guys play well. That’s why we won.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) December 23, 2018
I usually don’t do this, but I’m going to share the text I sent the players a little bit ago. If one or two guys play lackadaisical, this team cannot win. This is a team that’s going to have to fight every possession for 40 minutes. If we do that, we’re going to have a fun year. pic.twitter.com/OKjen16Fur— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) December 23, 2018
But it’s hard to be a player-driven team. They have to hold each other accountable. They have to practice the way they want to play, and it can’t be because a coach is riding you.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) December 23, 2018
This is a process and has always been. Every year it’s been that way. My focus today is no different than it was two weeks ago.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) December 23, 2018
It’s how do I help these guys get better and what is the best way for us to play. What roles do I have to put these guys in to make us the best team? We are still trying to figure this out but we are getting closer, as you can see.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) December 23, 2018
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, #BBN.
As bleak as things have looked over the last month going back to the Duke game, Kentucky has come a long way since then, especially on the defensive end. The Wildcats have held their last six opponents to an average of 66.3 points per game in regulation.
As bad as the Duke loss was, they’re going to be the No. 1 team in the new polls and still a sizable favorite to win it all this year.
Seton Hall continues to show they’re legit after winning on the road against a Maryland team that was on the cusp of top-25 status.
All things considered, 9-2 is a good record to have going into the matchup with Louisville.
It’s also becoming clear this team is still bought in to becoming the best version of itself. It may take a little longer than expected, but Saturday was a great indicator that the Wildcats will eventually get there.
Kentucky 80, North Carolina 72.— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) December 23, 2018
The highlights ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/thmNduNDTH