“Wow. We’re getting spanked.”
That’s the text I sent to RV:WT when I checked the score of last night’s game online. At the time, the score was 36-18; I did a double take and hit the reload button a few times to make sure I was seeing correctly — surely Kentucky had to have the 18 point lead! I headed over to Catspause to witness the inevitable meltdown, and ended up finding a link to a live feed of the game.
Waiting on the feed to load, I had flashbacks of the inexcusable losses at Rupp to VMI and Gardner Webb. There was no way something like that could happen in the Calipari era, right? You can say that your team is young and inexperienced all you want; you can lower expectations all you want; you can call out your team at Big Blue Madess all you want. But you have to know losses like that are inexcusable. Though the game was a little to close for comfort for most fans, I think Cal knew, and thankfully, he didn’t have to make up any excuses.
Here’s the thing: I knew Kentucky could come back and win — even before witnessing John Wall make a steal and break away for a lay up and Darnell Dodson hit two clutch threes. I thought we could even come back and win by double digits. It’s been reported that players were saying to each other, “We’re not going to lose this game.” I thought the same thing. Calipari said he was “ecstatic” when the Cats found themselves in an 18 point hole because he wanted to see how the team would respond. Respond they did, and in dramatic fashion.
I remember during the Gardner Webb game two seasons ago thinking, “We are Kentucky. We are not going to lose this game.” But as time ticked off the clock, it started sinking in that we were going to lose to a scrub team we’d never heard of. It didn’t make any sense. Though Miami (OH) isn’t a scrub team that we’ve never heard of, it didn’t make any sense to be down by 18.
But in his collegiate debut, Wall dribbled the length of the floor in the game’s last seconds, and with a veteran’s confidence that seemed to say, “We are Kentucky, we are not going to lose this game,” drained the game-winning jumper — and I knew why I never got that sinking feeling.
While the game may have given Big Blue Nation a temporary scare, it shows that Cal and the players know what it means, not just to play for, but to be Kentucky. The players believe in each other and Calipari believes in his team. What this game does is cement Cal’s resounding voice crying in the wilderness — “I’m not a savior. Lower your expectations. We are not that great yet!” — into the minds of Kentucky fans (and perhaps into the minds of the players, who understandably have probably been buying into their own hype). Now, maybe we can believe him while still loving and supporting the team with the passion UK fans are known for, and we can believe in their outstanding potential for greatness. Last night demonstrated they definitely have a ways to go, but I’ll say it again: It’s going to be fun watching this team develop and come together. There is no reason to panic.