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Wildcats embracing the big stage and finding success against their rivals

After losing to Duke, Kentucky has swept all of their rivalry matchups since then.

Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

Yes, I know Kentucky lost to Duke by 30 in their opening game.

But since that dreadful performance, the Wildcats have grown in leaps and bounds. And since being embarrassed in front of the entire country in the Champions Classic, the best performances by John Calipari’s crew have come against their biggest rivals.

Kentucky’s win against the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday very much mirrored their other two staple wins of the season. While Kansas did cut the lead to as low as two late in the second half, the game never really felt like it was in question after Kentucky got ahead by double digits.

The Wildcats made big plays when needed on both sides of the floor, hit big shots when things got iffy, and sank free throws down the stretch.

It was the same story against both the North Carolina Tar Heels and the Louisville Cardinals in December. The Louisville win looks better by the day, and considering neither of those victories came at Rupp Arena they could be the foundation of Kentucky’s impressive tournament resume.

Rivalry Wins

80-72 vs. North Carolina

71-58 at Louisville

71-63 vs. Kansas

If you include Kentucky’s best conference win, a 82-80 victory at Auburn, then it seems the Wildcats are at their best on the biggest stages.

With the non-conference gauntlet out of the way, Kentucky still has a couple of marquee matchups on the calendar. They have two games remaining against the No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers, the first of which could be a top five match-up in Rupp Arena on February 16th. They also have potential top 25 matchups against Ole Miss, LSU, and another game against Auburn.

Based on what we have seen so far, the Cats could have a very successful run for the remainder of the season. The ceiling seems pretty high for the team at this point, and they have their sights set on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in March.