You know when you have to go back to Cliff Hagan and Frank Ramsey for perspective, Kentucky is doing something special. So it was as UK overwhelmed Texas-Arlington 92-44 Tuesday.
Kentucky came oh so close to back-to-back victories by 50 or more points. That hadn't happened since the Hagan-Ramsey Cats beat Georgia Tech 99-48 and Georgia 106-55 on Feb. 2 and 4, 1954.
En route to a sixth straight victory to open the season, Kentucky led by 45 in the first 15 seconds of the second half.
A reluctant three-pointer by Trey Lyles with 16.1 seconds left put Kentucky ahead by 50. He didn't want to shoot, but the crowd implored him and an expiring shot clock forced him.
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First-time-in-60-years history was denied when UT Arlington's Brandon Williams made a layup at the buzzer to set the final score.
But historical footnotes aside, UK Coach John Calipari called attention to how his team reduced another opponent to utter hopelessness. He suggested that a united purpose (30 baskets, 19 assists) from, almost assuredly, a collection of 2015 NBA Draft picks should serve as an inspiration beyond mere basketball.
"Everybody talks about the 'me' and 'mine' and narcissism and all that," Calipari said. "Why wouldn't you root for this to happen and be good? I don't understand why you wouldn't root for this."
In his next breath, Calipari acknowledged why support for Kentucky might not be unanimous. "You're not rooting for Kentucky or me, OK," he said. "Short of that, why wouldn't you root for this? Most of us do care about society."
UT-Arlington Coach Scott Cross, who preceded Calipari to the interview area, also noted Kentucky's approach to basketball.
"They played the game the right way," he said. "That's what is really impressive: to be able to get all those NCAA All-Americans to play together as a team with 10 different guys. That is impressive. I don't know how Coach Cal gets those guys to do it, but it is really impressive to see what they do."
Numbers cruncher Ken Pomeroy rated UT-Arlington at No. 208, or two spots below the University of Incarnate, a San Antonio-based school that joined Division I in 2013.
Kentucky trailed for 24 seconds, which raised the six-game total of time UK has been behind to 15 minutes and 49 seconds. With a 55-12 halftime lead (second-largest in school history, of course, UK did not trail in the second half against UT-Arlington. That meant the Cats continued to be behind in a second half only once so far this season — against Buffalo — and not once in the final 13 minutes of any game.
After Kentucky led the sheep (bighorn sheep?) to slaughter in Sunday's 86-28 victory over Montana State, it buried UT-Arlington in an even deeper first-half hole. The Cats' 43-point halftime lead made the 39-11 cushion at intermission against Montana State seem like a nail-biter. The Mavs passed Montana State's 11 first-half points on a put-back with 7:11 left. The visitors didn't score again.
"I thought we'd be able to get a couple open looks, but in the first half we got zero open looks," Cross said. "That's what is really amazing about what they are doing is what they are doing defensively."
UT-Arlington had one fewer basket than Montana State had at halftime. The Mavs made only four of 32 shots (12.5 percent). Jamel Outler, who made a career-high seven three-pointers and tied his career high of 26 points on Saturday, missed his three first-half shots. He finished with six points.
In beating Houston Baptist Saturday, UT-Arlington made 10 of its first 11 shots and finished with 13 three-point baskets.
Meanwhile, Kentucky was efficient individually (19-for-31 shooting) and collectively (14 assists) in the first half.
Outler finally scored with 16:21 left in the second half. His pull-up three-pointer reduced UK's lead to 60-21.
Curiously, Cross never called a timeout as Kentucky pulled away. He second-guessed not calling a timeout in the first half to abandon a zone defense. His team usually plays man-to-man.
By the second half, a timeout seemed irrelevant, if not cruel. "You're trying not to prolong the game," he said.
For Calipari, the quandary is how to encourage his team's eye-catching efficiency without humiliating a hapless opponent.
"It's not like you're saying, 'OK, put your last five in,'" Calipari said. "Well, those five are pretty good, too. ...
"I can't come out in this game and say, let's play 30 (minutes) and let's stop playing. We've just got to finish it out.
"And," he added of the opponents, "I'm half the time rooting for them to make baskets."