Calipari: Someone please challenge these cats

jtipton@herald-leader.comFebruary 9, 2012 

After his team dusted off a fourth straight opponent, Kentucky Coach John Calipari expressed the desire for a greater challenge.

"What we need to do is have a team come out and go nutty on us," Calipari said after UK went nutty on Florida 78-58 Tuesday. The UK coach wanted to "have us have to respond to that, and then hold on to win a tight game."

Perhaps, Vanderbilt will give Kentucky such a test Saturday night in Nashville. In addition to making UK show its resolve, a nail-biter (as opposed to another nail-filer) would make a good show for ESPN's GameDay.

After Kentucky battered LSU, Tennessee and South Carolina by an average of 24.3 points, No. 8 Florida was supposed to push UK. Six of the eight most recent meetings had been decided by eight or fewer points.

Instead, Kentucky's 20-point victory marked the biggest margin in the series since 2004 (UK 82-62). There hadn't been a larger final spread since 1999 (UK 93-58).

"We wanted to prove to the world we're the best team in our conference," Doron Lamb said. "We did that."

Calipari, who earlier in the week warned about swagger evolving into arrogance, downplayed the significance of Kentucky's dominance of a top-10 team.

"They missed a lot of open threes that they normally make," he said.

Florida entered the game as the nation's No. 1 three-point shooting team (10.5 per game), but made a season-low six against Kentucky.

"Our goal was to try to hold them to eight threes," Calipari said. "... We figured if we held them to eight threes, they would be middle 60s (in points), and we thought we could score a little bit more than that."

The rematch in Gainesville on March 4 will be a sterner test, Calipari said.

"It will be a different game, I promise you," he said.

Florida's leading scorer, Kenny Boynton, expressed a similar sentiment while acknowledging Kentucky's superiority Tuesday and in the Southeastern Conference at this juncture of the season.

"They've proven it," he said.

Kentucky achieved only its third 10-0 SEC start since 1969.

"We've got time before we play them again," Boynton said.

Florida Coach Billy Donovan lamented the missed shots around the basket early in the game. He also noted a few quick shots when an extra pass might have produced a better scoring opportunity.

Freshman Bradley Beal did not disagree with a reporter's premise that season-low 34.9-percent shooting accuracy adversely affected Florida's defensive performance.

"I wouldn't say they're too far ahead (of the SEC pack)," Beal said of the Cats. "We shot ourselves in the foot."

Donovan saluted Kentucky's diverse attack. The Gators had to be mindful of Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist around the basket. "You don't want those guys off on an island (of one-on-one coverage)," he said.

Yet, Darius Miller, Lamb and Teague made seven of 12 three-pointers.

The game's last moment of tension came in the first minute of the second half. After Florida closed within 38-30, Kentucky called timeout with 19:02 left.

Then Teague and Miller hit three-pointers to begin an 11-0 breakout.

"They answered the bell," Donovan said. "(Kentucky) regained momentum pretty quickly."

Kentucky rides the momentum to Vanderbilt, where the Cats have lost five of their last six (and seven of the last 10).

"We still have something to prove," Teague said. "We have to win it all."

Teague saluted

Calipari saluted Teague's defense. In addition to a career-high 10 assists, Teague led the defensive effort that held Erving Walker scoreless. It was Walker's first scoreless game since Dec. 30, 2008.

"He had one play where he broke down, kind of stopped on a play," Calipari said of Teague. "They had a three in the corner right in front of our bench. Short of that, he's terrific. You can't dribble around him.

"I'll tell you where he's great: in pick-and-roll defense. It's hard to screen him because he is a pit bull."

Teague caught Donovan's eye.

"At times, he's a little too loose out there," the Florida coach said. "But he's got great speed and quickness. He knows where the ball needs to go."

Donovan acknowledged his concern that the Teague-Walker matchup could be a problem.

"That was a big difference in the game," he said. Of Teague's five turnovers, Donovan said, "Turnovers trying to make the right play."

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