Cal cautions against over-reaction to win

Kentucky Coach John Calipari needed to go back only 10 days to put sobering perspective on what appeared to be a we’ve-arrived statement victory at Mississippi.
“Look, our thing is way out in front of us still,” he said after UK beat the No. 16 Rebels 87-74 Tuesday. “We came from Auburn and did what we did. And then what did we do the next game?”
Kentucky routed Auburn 75-53 on Jan 19. Then three nights later, Kentucky wilted in the second half in losing 59-55 at Alabama.
That recent history seemed to temper Calipari’s enthusiasm for immediate talk of the victory bolstering Kentucky’s case for a NCAA Tournamment bid or — who knows? — the Cats as contender. Instead, he challenged the players to handle this success and build upon it.
“Two guys didn’t show up for the game (at Alabama),” he said. “They might (as well) not have gotten on the bus.
“So we have a long ways to go.”
The victory at Ole Miss featured the same kind of uneven play that has been typical for UK this season.
After a foul-filled first half that saw the two teams combined for 26 fouls, Kentucky blitzed Ole Miss early in the second half. UK made 14 of its first 20 shots in outscoring the Rebels 35-18 in the first 10 minutes.
Then Ole Miss outscored Kentucky 16-0 to make it either team’s game in the final four minutes.
“When they make that run, you can’t settle for all jumpers,” Calipari said. “You have to go in and get fouled, and you’ve got to make plays for your teammates.”
Kyle Wiltjer, who led UK with a career-high 26 points, took pride in how Kentucky teetered, but did not topple over down the stretch.
“We got a little rattled there,” he said. “But we regrouped in that timeout.”
Kentucky called time with 4:22 left. Ole Miss had just finished narrowing a 73-56 UK lead to 73-72.”
“I’m proud of the guys,” Wiltjer said. “It’s a huge step for us in that direction.”
But after Kentucky spoiled the Ole Miss party (a sellout crowd, a “white out” and bubbly good will produced by a 6-0 SEC record), Calipari spoke of what his team did right rather than what the Rebels did wrong.
“We had it going,” he said. “We had one our better performances.”