Preach on, Jay Bilas.
On last Saturday’s “College Gameday” show on ESPN, Bilas talked about how Kentucky is doing things the right way, in everything from sharing the basketball and playing hard to avoiding off-court missteps. And he said such a program would be lavished with praise if it was happening someplace other than Lexington.
At Georgia, Kentucky once again demonstrated that when it is challenged, this team of immensely talented individuals players always pulls together to defeat its foe with a collective will. With the perfect season in serious jeopardy midway through the second half, the Wildcats had found a way to score consistently with Karl-Anthony Towns but they had to find a way to get stops or Georgia was going to win. And on seven consecutive possessions, Kentucky kept UGA from scoring and the game was won.
It’s only when asked about that these players acknowledge their potential history-making nature of their season but Calipari has admitted that these players want that special legacy more than than admit. It had been three weeks, since the comeback win at LSU, since the Wildcats’ streak had been seriously threatened, in the final five mintues of a close game. You could argue that seeing perfection coming closer on the horizon would drive them to excellence but there was also the chance it would cause them to play with a fear of losing. There was no sign of that mindset at Georgia.
Credit Calipari for addressing that issue in his halftime talk. And credit him for continuing to preach that a loss is not the end of the world. He’s been down this road before and he knows the tone a coach needs to set to keep his players from focusing too much on the goal and not enough on the process of getting there.
At this point, the biggest risk to UK’s winning streak is Kentucky. If the Cats “bring it”–preferably from the start but at the least, when the outcome is in doubt–then they likely will not run into an opponent until the Elite Eight or later that is maybe good enough to beat them in that mode.