“Oh, was it 36%? That’s even better. That means you know you had to fight, you had to guard, you had to rebound, or you had no chance of winning,” A pleased and relieved John Calipari said after the Kentucky Wildcats’ road win against Texas A&M.
Most of time, shooting 36% from the floor doesn’t equate to a win, but on the road in the SEC, victories are precious and getting one when you didn’t have a great night is even better.
Cal knows it and so does his team.
Jacob Toppin said it this way. “In a close game like this, in an environment like this. For us to stay together when they went on their runs was big. It's big-time, and it just shows the type of group we are.”
Davion Mintz summed it up. “I’m just super proud of this team to come out with a win, regardless of how ugly it was tonight. We won and that is all that matters.”
The night was filled with a swarming A&M defense, hectic double coverages, more turnovers than we wanted to see, a hostile crowd to be certain, but an 8-2 run after intermission put the Cats back in the game and set the stage for the comeback win.
Toppin was fantastic on defense and provided a spark. TyTy Washington had an off night but came up big down the stretch with some shots that helped to seal the Wildcat win. The final four minutes was an area of concern for the team in a close game, this time the Final Four minutes belonged to the Cats. Cool under pressure, allowing the game to come to them, they played through the final minutes with confidence and secured the victory.
Oscar Tshiebwe mentioned in his post game interview, “We respect them, but we’ve got to go fight. We respect them, but we have no fear….we’re going to find out in the end who fights the most.”
This road win put the fight of the team on display for Big Blue Nation. They were gritty, they were tenacious, and they refused to lose. All of those are essential for a team to climb through the SEC and make a run into March. The descriptions offered all apply – “you had to fight” – “it’s big-time” – “regardless of how ugly it was” – “we have no fear” describe the battle accurately and make the win one to cherish.
These types of games are games that one year ago the team would not have won – this team figured out how to stay in the game and win (even after shooting 36%.) Kentucky now gets ready to fearlessly face what may be their biggest test of the season this weekend at Auburn.
They are ready.