First, unnerve. Then unarm.
That's the strategy opponents continue to use against Kentucky's fuzzy-cheeked team.
"Try to get in our heads," graybeard Patrick Patterson said after UK beat Florida 74-66 on Sunday. "That's pretty much what every team is trying to do. Get in our heads. Try to get us out of our game."
Patterson acknowledged the wisdom of such thinking. The freshman-oriented UK team has plenty of space available in its collective head for opponents to try to exploit.
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"Oh, there is a lot of room," he said. " ... Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't work."
Ironically, opponents use physical means in the psychological warfare.
"Like you would anybody," Patterson said. "Just talk, push, shove. (The opponents think) Hopefully the referees don't call it. If the referees don't call it, it'll cause a player to get mad. So it's pretty much foul, hack, talk, push and shove."
In his post-game news conference, UK Coach John Calipari practically begged his players not to let the opponents affect their thinking.
"The biggest thing I can't get across to our team is when you expect to win, you have a swagger," he said. "You work hard and prepare. You don't get upset with things. You know what you say? Oh well, we're going to win anyway."
So an opponent yells at you. Or an opponent elbows you. Or a referee doesn't call the foul. Oh, well, Kentucky will win.
"We're not there yet," Calipari said. "Something happens and we lose our minds."
Sophomore Darius Miller scored 14 points, which marked only the second time in Southeastern Conference play he's hit double-digits. It snapped a streak of 11 straight games with less than 10 points.
When Florida closed within 50-46, Miller hit a three-pointer to ease the tension.
"I'm pretty comfortable," said Miller, who had made only one of 10 three-point shots in the last two games before making three against Florida. "(Teammates) provide a lot of opportunities for me. I have to take advantage of it."
By that, Miller said he meant, "Most teams help off me and the other wings, especially when DeMarcus (Cousins) or Pat are in the post or John (Wall) is driving. That opens up a lot of open looks and a lot of open lanes to take advantage of."
Suddenly, Darnell Dodson is a dead-eye shooter.
Dodson, a sophomore from Greenbelt, Md., had made one of 18 three-point shots in the last six games before hitting three of six at Georgia on Wednesday. He followed up by making both his attempts from beyond the arc against Florida.
"It was nice to see when he pulls up, everyone in the building thinks he's making the shot," Calipari said.
Pick and rolls
Calipari cited Florida's pick-and-roll action as a key contributor to the surprising 39-34 rebounding advantage for the Gators. Surprising because UK came into the game ranked third nationally in rebound margin (plus 9.1) and Florida was ranked 104th (plus 2.4).
Calipari suggested Florida Coach Billy Donovan learned from watching South Carolina outrebound UK 44-40 in winning in Columbia.
"Florida exploited us in the pick and rolls," Calipari said. "The last time we gave up that many offensive rebounds we lost at South Carolina."
South Carolina grabbed 20 offensive rebounds. Florida had 19.
What happened was a UK big man helped cover the guard coming off the pick and did not recover fast enough to block out the opposing big man setting the pick and rolling to the basket.
"Billy probably watched that tape," Calipari said.
UK set a record for attendance in a season with a total of 433,989 fans watching 18 home games. That broke the record of 422,547 set in last season's 19-game home schedule. UK also set a record for average home attendance with 24,111. The old record was 24,025 set in 1990-91. ... Calipari said UK can clinch a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament by winning two games in the SEC Tournament. "If we get beat in the first game, I'm not sure we'll be a No. 1 seed," he said. "If we get beat in the second game, it'll be dicey." ... UK's men's and women's teams went undefeated at home in the same season for only the second time. The first time came in 1980-81.