With some impressive wins and a lofty ranking, Kentucky has already achieved some noteworthy accomplishments. But coach John Calipari wants his team to play like have not achieved anything. And that's just the kind of mindset they'll encounter from the first SEC foe tomorrow.
"They're not going to be pretty. They've going to have to scrap their way through games," South Carolina beat writer Darryl Slater said today on the "Leach Report" radio show. "They've shown signs that can win a few games in this league."
After a start that included losses to the likes of Elon and Tennessee State, the Gamecocks have regrouped. They played Ohio State tough and they bring a four-game winning streak into this matchup at Kentucky, although those wins came against much lesser foes.
Slater, who covers USC for the Post & Courier in Charleston, S.C., says two reasons for the recent uptick are improved rebounding and a tenacious press. And the Gamecocks are also meshing Bruce Ellington back into the mix.
Last year's starting point guard is coming off the bench after doing double duty for Steve Spurrier's football team and he recently had a 17-point night against Wofford.
"He's really starting to find his legs and that's a big development for this team, which can be offensively-challenged," said Slater, who noted that Ellington has taken coach Darrin Horn's advice to heart. "(He said) 'focus on defense and the offense will come' and after the Wofford game, he said he was able to do that. Horn has said they'll have to be patient with Bruce and it seems like he's finding his touch now."
It's easy to be an Anthony Davis fan these days but CBS' Clark Kellogg left with an even stronger impression after watching the freshman big man in two games last month.
"I like his demeanor, his poise," Kellogg said. "He takes advantage of his opportunities. I don't know if they ever really call plays for him. He's going to have get stronger but I love his skills. His hands are fantastic. He keeps the ball high, he runs extremely well, he's a good passer and I like his shot."
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's 19 rebounds against Louisville was the best single-game effort on the glass since Rajon Rondo's 19 against Iowa in 2005. And he just missed the rarified air of the 20-20 club.
It's been almost 36 years since a Kentucky player had 20 or more points AND rebounds in a game. Mike Phillips did in 1976 against LSU, with 35 points and 20 boards.
By the way, Terrence Jones' 11 rebounds marked his first double-figure game in that category this season. He had 13 double-figure rebounding games last season.
Twany Beckham is the only Louisville native on the Kentucky roster and he says he was pleasantly surprised by the reaction he got in his hometown after the Cats' win over the Cardinals.
"I went home after the game and I was surpised that a lot of people were happy for me and showed me a lot of love. I figured a lot of people would be mad at me or have some bad things to say," said Beckham, "but they were happy for me."