WKYT | Lexington, Kentucky | Sports

Cats move on after 2,000th win

   Ramon Harris enjoyed the confetti. Donned
the T-shirt commemorating Kentucky

Kentucky fans hold up the number 2,000 at the beginning of Kentucky's game against Drexel in Lexington, Ky., on Monday night. UK won, becoming the first team in NCAA history to reach 2,000 wins.

Ramon Harris enjoyed the confetti. Donned
the T-shirt commemorating Kentucky's 2,000th win. Breathed in the
moment as the Wildcats made history.
Twenty minutes later, he was over it.
The senior forward understands the unique bond between the
Wildcats and the Bluegrass. He knows the importance of becoming the
first program to reach 2,000 victories, a milestone the school
reached with an 88-44 win over Drexel on Monday.
He also knows getting to 2,000 will be just a footnote in a few
months when the calendar flips to March.
"It's a blessing but we're looking at the big picture," Harris
said. "And the big picture is (being) the last team standing on
the court. It really starts now."
The floor at Rupp Arena wasn't even clear of the streamers that
rained down from the rafters during the postgame celebration when
talk turned toward a much smaller number: eight, as in Kentucky's
pursuit of an eighth NCAA championship.
The Wildcats (12-0) certainly looked like a legitimate contender
while putting together their most complete game of the season in
dismantling the Dragons.
It's the kind of performance coach John Calipari said his team
is capable of when it plays together. It helps when freshman point
guard John Wall plays nearly flawlessly.
The budding star finished with 16 points, seven assists and no
turnovers in 26 minutes. And for all of his athleticism, it's his
decision-making that has won over his coach. Wall is averaging 7.0
assists per game and could challenge the school record for assists
in a season - 232 by Roger Harden in 1985-86 - if he stays healthy.
"He is the main cog in this little machine we got going here,"
Calipari said. "He is the guy that when he plays sloppy, we look
sloppy and when he plays a tighter game we look like a
juggernaut."
The victory matched Kentucky's best start since 1983-84 and with
a string of seemingly winnable games coming in the next few weeks -
starting on Wednesday against Long Beach State (6-5) - there's buzz
building about the Wildcats going undefeated on their way to
cutting down the nets at the Final Four.
It's buzz the players aren't exactly trying to quell.
"We are on our way to a national title, that's what we have
wanted all year," said forward Jon Hood. "We are waiting and
working toward that. Everyday we have to get better if we want to
achieve that."
It's a point Calipari has tried to drive home to his young team
even after it survived a handful of close calls in the opening
weeks. Even as Kentucky managed to pass tough tests against North
Carolina, Stanford, Connecticut and Miami (Ohio), he stressed to
his players that winning wasn't enough.
The message appears to be getting through. Calipari's praise
after beating Drexel wasn't explicitly for Wall, but for role
players like DeAndre Liggins.
The sophomore guard spent the first six weeks of the season
firmly planted on the end of the bench, fueling the possibility
that he would transfer at the end of the semester.
Liggins admitted on Tuesday he had been suspended, but didn't
specify the reason. Neither did Calipari, who only said Liggins -
like the rest of his players - struggled to meet the parameters of
an agreement with his coaches on what was expected of him.
"You put together a contract for kids of, 'This is what you
have to do before you play,"' Calipari said. "They have to do it
and you live by it. If it takes them longer than they were supposed
to, then that's too bad."
It took Liggins longer than he anticipated. Yet he hung in
there, and Calipari has rewarded his perseverance with playing
time.
On Monday Liggins scored six points in 11 minutes and impressed
his coach with the kind of defensive intensity Calipari hopes is
contagious.
"When we put DeAndre in, it was a lift," Calipari said. "I
know that the guy he guarded was like 'Please, take this guy out of
the game.' You couldn't bounce it, move or spin. If he will do
that, it is easy to play him."
Liggins gives the Wildcats perhaps another weapon off the bench.
Though Calipari has talked about tightening his rotation before
Kentucky starts play in the Southeastern Conference, the effort
he's received from his reserves may make it a more difficult task
than he imagined.
It's a good problem to have.
"We are getting closer," Calipari said. "I like that we have
a full complement of players right now."


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