To describe Sunday evening as a defining moment for this season may not be completely unwarranted.
Sure, the opponent wasn’t a top 25 team, or one that was ever predicted to hang with Kentucky, but games like this are important.
Coming off a huge win against Michigan State on national television, some feared Kentucky would have some sort of hangover from that game and be vulnerable as Duquesne came to town.
After all, Kentucky is still learning, much like they do yearly, to mold these talented freshmen into the Calipari March Madness mega powers we’ve seen in the past. They must learn how to not only ignore what the media says about them and what the opposing fans shout at them, but they also have to learn how to play as one terrifyingly dominant unit.
They did just that on Sunday.
Kentucky trailed for all of ten seconds last night.
The turning point came when Isaiah Briscoe was shoved out of bounds when driving for a basket by Eric James of Duquesne. It escalated as Briscoe and James got to their feet, as it appeared that James shoved Briscoe a second time. Both teams came to the defense of their respective teammate. It looked like things were about spiral out of control briefly before both sides regained composure. A flagrant foul was assessed to James. After Briscoe left the free throw line, he appeared to be favoring his hip as he went to the bench.
Kentucky went on to win 93-59.
Fox led all scorers with 16, followed by Monk’s 14 and Briscoe with 13.
During the post game press conference it was revealed Briscoe suffered a pulled muscle, but it isn’t serious and he shouldn’t miss any time.
Calipari preached that we are still seeing the early stages of progress with this team.
“Our discipline defensively is not where it needs to be.” Calipari said as he gave examples of scenarios in the game that he thought could have been improved upon.
This was a significant win for the Cats in various aspects, the headline today will be that with his 122nd home win, Calipari has now tied Joe B. Hall for the most wins in Rupp Arena. Hall was the celebrity Y tonight in Rupp and received the loudest ovation of the night, and probably of the young season thus far in Rupp. Calipari was notified of the achievement post game and responded:
“Final Fours and National Titles, that’s what we chase here.”
When asked about Cal’s 122-4 record in Rupp, Duquesne’s Jim Ferry seemed shocked.
“He lost four?!” Ferry said as he questioned the media in attendance. A reporter asked Ferry what experience he felt his team received from playing against Kentucky in Rupp Arena, which prompted the quote of the night:
“Well, we got an ass whoopin’.”
Ferry compared playing Cal’s Cats in Rupp to playing North Carolina when Harrison Barnes was leading the Tar Heels. He said it was completely overwhelming from a basketball standpoint, and that at times he felt his team couldn’t even get a successful pass because of the defense.
“It’s all predicated on how John has these guys playing.” Ferry added as he described how hard Kentucky plays from tip off to the final buzzer.
One of the biggest character traits that most look for in a contending team is how well they play together. The best of the best always play selflessly, as one large train roaring down an open track that no one unit could stop. The elements of that train are all important, and all are required to move the train, but the train can’t go unless all the parts are in place.
Cal mentioned how just a few months ago all of the freshmen were the best players on their teams, and that often they didn’t have to work all that hard because they knew they could beat anyone around them. He praised how hard the team is competing against one another in practice, and how they now have the challenge of playing someone on their level daily.
When Bam was asked why he put himself into the turmoil following the flagrant on Briscoe, he responded by telling the world what it should be afraid to hear:
“That’s my brother. I gotta have my brother’s back.”
This team of superstar freshmen is coming together, and coming together a lot faster than many in opposing locker rooms would like.
They are playing as one unit, and as we know all too well in the bluegrass, that can be a beautiful thing to see.