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Cats show great promise, big games lay ahead

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Senior guard Darius Miller and the Kentucky men's basketball team has shown great promise with big games on the horizon. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Senior guard Darius Miller and the Kentucky men's basketball team has shown great promise with big games on the horizon. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The Kentucky men's basketball team cruised to an 87-63 victory over Portland on Saturday night in front of an energetic crowd of 24,179 at Rupp Arena.

With the win, Kentucky moves to 6-0 on the season with future dates against St. John's and No. 1 North Carolina on the near horizon.

For now, the Wildcats can rest easy. An undefeated record with an average margin of victory of 30 points per game will allow one to do that. That's not to say the early season has been a total breeze and Kentucky is hitting on all cylinders. They're not.

"We've got to be better than we were tonight offensively, and I know I looked at the numbers - the numbers looked pretty good," UK head coach John Calipari said. "I mean, the numbers looked like, wow, they were there. But we have to be better than we're playing right now."

Kentucky has shown glimpses of greatness, and plays that are truly jaw dropping. The problem has been that too often Calipari has also seen "flubs" that make him scratch his head.

Freshman guard Marquis Teague, who has drawn the ire of some for a few of his decisions in the UK offense, missed two layups in the first half. But he also had a slew of defensive plays that got the crowd on its feet and ignited the Cats on multiple runs. By the end of the game, the freshman from Indianapolis finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, four steals and zero turnovers.

"I thought Marquis Teague played a terrific floor game," Calipari said. "The best play he made, and I told him after the game, breakaway lay up, he slowed down and gave it to Terrence Jones, best play he's made all year. It just shows that he's playing for his team."

For some teams, games like Saturday night's against Portland can be tough. A non-marquee opponent from the other side of the country just two days after Thanksgiving can be a healthy recipe for a lethargic evening.

At times in the first half, it appeared the Wildcats were still trying to shake off some of the leftover tryptophan from the holiday turkey. At other times, it appeared no defense could stop Kentucky, as sports radio host and TV personality Dan Patrick would say, they could only hope to contain them.
 
Coming out of the timeout following senior wide receiver/quarterback/football hero Matt Roark's introduction to the Rupp Arena faithful, the Wildcats went on a 6-0 run spanning just 26 seconds. The run was capped off by a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist dunk that will surely reach the Sportscenter Top 10.

It's moments like that that make this Kentucky team so dangerous.

Seemingly with a single blink of the eye, the Cats can take a once close game and flip it into cruise control. While Portland played well, hitting 11 3-pointers and out-rebounding the Cats, Kentucky got a 24-point victory thanks to 12 steals and just four turnovers.

The job for UK head coach John Calipari is finding that switch that gets the Wildcats to put their foot on the gas from the opening tip.

With one of the more rigorous portions of the UK schedule beginning in just a few days, including arguably the most highly anticipated regular season matchup in recent memory when the Tar Heels come to town Dec. 3, it's safe to assume the Wildcats will have their collective minds plenty focused.

"We know it's going to be two really big games," said senior guard Darius Miller in reference to Kentucky's next two games. "St. John's and North Carolina are two of the elite teams in the nation. I think both of them are really good. A lot of things that they do, in my opinion, are really similar, especially getting out and running. We're going to have a lot to work on. I know we're going to have tough days in practice ahead of us to get us ready, but Coach Cal is going to do a great job of getting us prepared."

For now, Calipari will continue to watch tape on his team, try to find the right combinations, and push the right buttons. The Wildcats are 6-0. They hope to be 8-0 at this time next week.

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