Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein voiced a note of caution about Kentucky's 72-62 victory Saturday serving as a springboard into Tuesday's highly anticipated game at Florida.
"You know, personally, in my opinion, I don't think we passed the test," he said. "We quit on plays still. We're still making too many mistakes.
"But we got the win, and we got it in a tough way. From that standpoint, that was good."
First place in the Southeastern Conference will be on the line when Kentucky (8-2) plays Florida (9-1). UK will be riding a season's-best five-game winning streak, which prompted Nerlens Noel to sound an optimistic note.
"It's very good momentum," he said. "We're not riding too high, but we're not riding low.
"Right now, we're a confident team. We have some good momentum."
Florida is one of four teams unbeaten at home in SEC play. At 4-1 away from Rupp Arena, Kentucky ties Florida for the league's best road record.
Something must give, although UK Coach John Calipari recoiled from the notion of a showdown for first place in Gainesville.
"Are you crazy?" he said of such talk. "We've got Florida twice. We've got Missouri here. ...What? We're just trying to get better."
Noel, who leads the nation in blocks, rejected only one shot. He swatted away freshman guard's Shaquille Johnson's driving layup with 65 seconds left.
Noel, who had blocked more than one shot in every game since UK played Baylor on Dec. 1, said he was mindful that he might not block a shot for the first time this season (he also blocked only one shot against Notre Dame and Lafayette).
"Yeah, I was aware," he said. "But my team is winning."
Noel acknowledged in an almost dismissive way Auburn's effort to keep him away from the basket. "I knew what they were doing, their little strategy of keeping me away, and shoot little floaters," he said. "It's all good as long as we're rebounding the misses."
Archie Goodwin continued to struggle. He made only one shot, equaling a season low (one of seven at Notre Dame).He also badly missed his only three-point attempt. That made him 1-for-20 from beyond the arc in the last 11 games (1-for-18 against SEC teams and 0-for-10 in the last eight games).
Goodwin did not start the second half en route to a season-low 17 minutes. He came into the game averaging 33.6 minutes against SEC teams.
"I'm trying to get Archie to zone in on his team: what he's got to do for his team," Calipari said. "And get out of how he's playing because then you can't make a shot. You're afraid to make a play because you're afraid you are going to screw up versus I'm playing for the team. 'I know what the team needs me to do. They need me to drive.'"
Upon further review
If there must be only one honest man in college basketball, it's Willie Cauley-Stein. He continued to show he's willing to give a candid appraisal.
When asked about the first-half incident in which the referees ejected Auburn's Jordon Granger while giving Goodwin a technical foul, Cauley-Stein said, "On film, you see Archie pushing first. It's another retaliation thing."
After the push, Granger flung a slap-punch in Goodwin's direction.
"I mean, if somebody did that to us, if you got pushed, you're going to swing at him, too," Cauley-Stein said. "That's how the game is."
Oh those refs
Auburn had two more baskets (22-20) and one more three-pointer (7-6). Yet, Kentucky won. The Cats won by making 26 of 38 free throws. Auburn made 11 of 17.
Auburn's two big men, Rob Chubb and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, fouled out within 54 seconds of each other. Almost seven minutes remained to be played.
Said a diplomatic Noel Johnson of the officiating, "It kind of affected the outcome of the game."
Jekyll and Kyle
Although Kyle Wiltjer speaks carefully to reporters, he's apparently quite outgoing with his teammates.
"He's always like a 'hype man,'" Cauley-Stein said. "You're feeling down, he's going to get in your face and say, 'C'mon man! C'mon man!'"
This expressive Wiltjer does not appear in interview sessions.
"We make goofy videos," Cauley-Stein said. "Maybe he doesn't like the media."
■ Noel said that the blizzard that hit New England on Friday did not adversely affect his family.
■ UK won its 15th straight against Auburn. That's the program's longest active winning streak against an SEC opponent. The next-highest streak is six, against Tennessee and South Carolina. UK has won five straight against Florida and LSU.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com