John Calipari didn't know how his three freshman starters would react in a hostile road atmosphere at Notre Dame. In fact, he had accepted the Wildcats wouldn't be playing their best game of the young season in such an unfamiliar setting, and that might just end in defeat.
Coach Cal had certainly not accepted the Cats would be beaten in terms of effort though.
"I kind of expected that we wouldn't play," Calipari said. "This is the first time out of the gate. What I'm disappointed with is we didn't compete. They beat us to balls, they beat us around the basket. We just didn't compete."
The result was a court-storming celebration that has become somewhat of a ritual anytime the Cats lose on the road. The Fighting Irish came away with a 64-50 victory, handing Calipari just the second double-digit defeat of his UK tenure.
"We just got outcompeted from start to finish," Julius Mays said. "We didn't play hard. They competed harder than we did and they came out and wanted it more than we did."
The game's beginning wasn't quite as bad as Mays remembers as the Cats led by as many as six points in the early going. After Alex Poythress left the game with two fouls and his team leading 12-6 with 14:32 on the clock in the first half, the Fighting Irish would go on an 11-2 run to take a lead they would never relinquish.
"We came out a little shell-shocked when they came out like they did," Mays said. "We started playing their game which was slow down in the half court and I think we're more of an up-tempo team. Once we got in their game, obviously they're better at it."
The result was the lowest scoring output among Calipari's four Kentucky teams, due in large part to Poythress and Archie Goodwin - UK's leading scorers - being limited to six points combined.
"Archie I think, he was playing out of control for the first time," Calipari said. "I think the one shot hit the shot clock...And he hadn't played like that all year. He may have early in practice but he just was out of control."
Mays did his best to pick up the slack, hitting three second-half 3-pointers to cut a once 20-point Notre Dame lead to 10 at one point. He finished with 16 points, but seemingly each time he drilled a shot from deep, the Irish had an answer.
"You've got to give Notre Dame credit," Calipari said. "What a great crowd. The student body, and then the way they played. They ground us out. That's how we usually play when we get up."
The Cats won't have much time to sulk about the Irish giving them a dose of their own medicine. When they touched down in Lexington at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday night, the countdown to UK's Saturday tilt with Baylor was officially on. A 37-hour turnaround can be tough, particularly with a plane flight and a late night in between, but Calipari is just fine with how the schedule turned out.
"The good news is we play in 36 hours," Calipari said. "It's back to back. We didn't play well. They played extremely well. They made shots. We didn't defend the way we have to defend."
Now, the Cats will go about the business of trying to rectify some of those things in a very short amount of time. UK will have the luxury of playing in front of its home fans for Saturday's national television rematch of last year's Elite Eight, but the Cats have 10 road games last season, which means they better figure out how to keep their wits about them in a raucous road venue if they want to avoid having to wade through students reveling in a victory.
"We all better get used to it because it's going to be a night-in, night-out basis," Mays said. "Crowds are going to be like this everywhere we go."