BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Kentucky Coach John Calipari made a statement after his team beat Indiana 90-73 on Saturday.
"Surprisingly, he said, 'Congratulations, you're 10-0,' " All-America hopeful Patrick Patterson said. "It felt good to hear that."
Prior to this convincing crunching of the Hoosiers, Calipari had consistently poured water on UK's best start to a season since 1992-93. UK's play merited a .500 record, he kept grumbling.
But not after UK pounded Indiana around the basket on its way to a 49-24 rebounding advantage and similar landslide margins in points in the paint (44-26) and second-chance points (30-6).
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Not after UK shot holes in the Hoosiers' hopes of a zone defense dragging the go-go Cats into a half-court morass. Credit freshman Eric Bledsoe, who hit four of five three-point shots in scoring 23 points.
"I want to tell the people of Indiana we're not better than this," Calipari said in supporting his friend, IU Coach Tom Crean. "That was, like, a February effort."
Calipari, who equaled Adolph Rupp's record 10-0 debut as a first-year UK coach (1930-31), watched several statements made by Kentucky players in the game.
Bledsoe, who hadn't reached double-digit points since the Rider game on Nov. 21, wanted to tell the world Kentucky had a standout freshman guard not named John Wall.
"John Wall's not the only one out there playing," Bledsoe said with a smile. "The team is helping him, too."
Bledsoe contributed two three-pointers and a fast-break dunk to an 18-0 run that broke open the game early in the second half and silenced earlier fan chants of "Cal's a cheater" and "S-A-T," apparent references to Calipari programs having brushes with NCAA justice in the past.
With freshman Maurice Creek on the way to career highs of five three-pointers and 31 points, Indiana led 48-47 early in the second half.
Bledsoe's eight points in the breakout run included his third and fourth three-pointers.
"Oh, it felt real good knowing I can shoot the ball, and it's going in every time," he said, only slightly exaggerating (8-for-10 overall, 4-for-5 from three-point range).
Although wanting to join Wall as a recognized player of importance, Bledsoe acknowledged that UK's standout point guard keyed his breakout game.
"The 2-3 zone, the reason they played it was to stop John from penetrating," Bledsoe said. "And they left us open to shoot."
Creek, whose previous high was 19 against Maryland, noted how Wall and UK's big men deserved some credit for an "almost perfect" game by Bledsoe.
"John giving him the ball and the big men kicking it out to him and hand-feeding him," Creek said.
Bledsoe capped the breakout with a fast-break dunk that put UK ahead 65-48 with 12:40 left.
"I haven't dunked since Midnight Madness," Bledsoe reminded reporters. "I've been hurt."
An ankle sprain in UK's first exhibition game helped rob Bledsoe of his giddyap.
"I'm just happy for him," Calipari said of the dunk. "He's not played with any kind of aggressiveness or any kind of assertiveness. He was almost casual at times the last two weeks."
For all of Bledsoe's sharpshooting, inside dominance fueled Kentucky's biggest point total against Indiana since a 99-65 victory in the 1996-97 season. UK made four of its first 12 shots and fell behind 17-9.
Creek, the leading freshman scorer among Big Ten players (15.6 points per game), had Kentucky looking as if it might be up a creek in its third emotional game in eight days.
Creek scored 17 first-half points, hit his first three three-point shots and didn't miss from beyond the arc until the final seconds of the first half. The Cats stayed afloat with fast-break opportunities and put-backs.
"We're bigger than them," Calipari said. "That's what we are. We're a big team."
But the sheer size of UK's dominance around the basket reflected more than size, IU guard Jeremiah Rivers said.
"None of us did a good job on the boards," he said. "We didn't have the urgency for it, and we got manhandled."
Then UK got hot, making 11 of 13 shots in a rush that built a 36-27 lead.
Bledsoe scored 10 points inside four minutes during the run.
After Kentucky's 18-0 run, Indiana closed to 67-54. Another display of Kentucky dominance around the basket sealed the victory.
Ramon Harris scored on a put-back while being fouled. Harris missed the free throw, but Patterson easily nestled the rebound into the basket to extend the lead to 71-54 with 10:12 left. Indiana got no closer than 12 the rest of the way.
"We thought we had this one in the bag," Creek said. "We thought we gave a lot of effort. This was one of my good days. It's just what I do.
"It just wasn't enough."