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Kentucky Wildcats TV has been there every step of the way with pump-up and intro videos documenting a perfect regular season. On Monday, they combined them all. With four more days before the Wildcats are in action again, check it out.

UK capped off a 31-0 regular season with a 67-50 win over Florida on Saturday. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) UK capped off a 31-0 regular season with a 67-50 win over Florida on Saturday. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
Thirty-one up, 31 down.

What started with a 40-point victory over Grand Canyon on Nov. 14 ended with a 67-50 victory over Florida on Saturday afternoon. With a roster filled with McDonald's All-Americans, future NBA lottery picks and millionaires, it was the team that shined brightest throughout the entirety of this historic regular season.

"I would tell you what these kids have accomplished, and as young as they are, it's not winning every game; it's that they shared," UK head coach John Calipari said. "... This is a great story for college athletics, for society. Instead of me, me, me, it's us, us, us."

Kentucky (31-0, 18-0 Southeastern Conference) completed the first undefeated regular season by a power-five conference team since 1975-76. In front of a sold-out Rupp Arena crowd that was buzzing well before the opening tip with anticipation of what was to come, UK shed all the pressure and attention and played the team ball that has allowed it to succeed

"The first thing I want to say is congratulations to John and his team," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "What they've done may not happen again for a long, long time. For people that have covered their team, I think it's really important that people at least reflect in a real positive way of what they've accomplished this season.

"When you look at a team, so much of the team is based on chemistry, how connected they are, how they play for each other, share the ball, all those kinds of things."

Prior to Saturday's game, the Wildcats said they were not focused on 31-0 or the "pursuit of perfection." Instead, they said they were simply focused on defeating Florida because Florida was the next game on their schedule. They've preached the cliche "one game at a time" throughout the 2014-15 season, but they've also practiced it.

On Senior Day, with all of the attention and pressure of the college basketball world weighing down on them, Coach Cal decided it was more important for UK to recognize its three seniors, all walk-ons, by starting them.

"What would you have done if we would have lost this game?" Coach Cal said. "How many of you would have said, 'How could he do that, start these kids with this on the line?'

"Let's think about it. I keep telling you this is about these players, it's about them. What about those three?"

Junior Willie Cauley-Stein said their 31st win was for those seniors, Tod Lanter, Brian Long and Sam Malone.

"It wasn't even about the perfect season," Cauley-Stein said, who scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds. "It was about everybody else, like the seniors. That's what it was about. We were playing for them so they could get in the game and have that moment for the rest of their life."

Following the win, the Wildcats donned blue T-shirts with "31-0" printed on the front in white, and "Not done yet" below that. Sophomore Andrew Harrison and junior Willie Cauley-Stein then took the mic and thanked the fans.

"We appreciate y'all coming out and supporting us and everything, but we're not done yet," Cauley-Stein said to a loud, approving roar from the crowd.

It's been a wild ride for the 7-footer from Olathe, Kan. As a freshman, Cauley-Stein and the Cats went to the NIT where they were ousted in the first round by Robert Morris. Then one year later, Cauley-Stein suffered an ankle injury in the Sweet 16 and missed out on playing in the Final Four with his teammates.

"The NIT thing was just bad," Cauley-Stein said. "It was just bad. I didn't really have any control over it. Last year was just - to see everybody else in the tournament was worse than losing.

"It hasn't really set in yet. It's just, everything happens for a reason. ... End up coming back and end up being part of history and end up doing stuff people didn't really think you could do."

The Cats did not have their best offensive performance against the Gators, scoring just 1.063 points per possession. But as they have shown all year, there are many ways for this team to earn a win, primarily through its defense.

Kentucky blocked eight shots against the Gators, including six by freshman phenom Karl-Anthony Towns - who also scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds - and held Florida to a season-low-tying 50 points.

Now, Kentucky will head to Nashville, Tenn., home of this year's SEC Tournament, where it says it will play for its passionate fan base that has shown its unrivaled support all season long. The Cats maintain, however, that whatever happens in the SEC Tournament, happens. They have much bigger goals on their mind.

"I feel like there's no pressure on the winning," Cauley-Stein said. "Everybody's like, 'Oh, they have to go 40-0.' That's not what we're playing for. If we lose, we lose. You're just going to learn from it and have a feeling in your gut that you're not trying to lose again. So, I mean, going a perfect season is great, but that's not what we're trying to do."

Karl-Anthony Towns had 13 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and three assists in UK's 67-50 win over Florida on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Karl-Anthony Towns had 13 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and three assists in UK's 67-50 win over Florida on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Karl-Anthony Towns had people buzzing again.

Kenny Payne, Kentucky's associate head coach, called him "one of the most complete players there is" after he helped lead the Wildcats past Florida and to the first unbeaten regular season for a power-conference team in 39 years.

Experts wondered aloud whether such performances could make him the No. 1 overall pick come June's NBA Draft.

Afterward, one reporter asked Towns whether he was "feeling it" after his latest big game, which caught the 6-foot-11 freshman off guard.

"Feeling it?" Towns said. "I was feeling the rim a lot. I struggled today."

Struggled, huh? His stat line begs to differ.

Towns posted 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists as top-ranked UK (31-0, 18-0 Southeastern Conference) pulled away from Florida (15-16, 8-10 SEC) for a 67-50 win. All Towns could think about, however, were the six shots he missed in 10 attempts, especially his 1-of-5 first-half effort.

"Every game I'm not going to be going 7 for 7, 10 for 10, 9 for 9," Towns said. "The only thing I can take out from this game is a lot of tape to improve my game and also just go back to the drawing board, see what I gotta do to get back."

Towns had set a high standard for himself over the last month, shooting an incredible 80 percent from the field in his previous six outings. That helps explain his seemingly harsh self-critique.

"The game's not always going to be as efficient as always," Towns said. "But like I said, if one aspect of the game's not working for you, you gotta go to the other aspect. I'm glad I was able to keep playing defense the way I was playing tonight."

He certainly had the defense covered. Towns blocked six Gator shots in his 27 minutes, helping hold Florida to 42.9-percent shooting and 0.82 points per possession.

"Just doing what I do," Towns said. "I mean, my sister always taught me when one aspect of the game doesn't work for you, make sure all the (other) aspects work. So I was just trying to be a defender out there, also. The offense was going to catch up and I'm glad it did, but it's a game where I definitely have to go back to my room and, I guess as we all say, have Karlito chew me out a little bit."

Karlito likely won't have much to say when UK's decisive run comes up on tape.

"When we needed him to play at the end, he played," Calipari said.

With 10:28 left, the Cats led by a slim 44-41 margin. Towns, however, spearheaded a 9-2 run that lifted the lead to double digits and began the celebration of a historic regular season in Rupp Arena. He scored four points, added two rebounds and a block, and started the spurt rifling a beautiful cross-court pass out of a double team to Devin Booker for a 3-pointer.

"He's got a great feel of how to play," Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. "And the thing I like about him more than anything is when he does get post trapped, he's got long arms, he's got good vision, he's a good passer for a big man, he seems to be willing to throw it out of the post."

As willing a passer as Towns may be, he still has moments, says Coach Cal, where his judgment falters and he tries to make "hero plays." His coach won't stop until those have all disappeared.

"Well, look, I keep trying to explain to Karl, 'You are so good, you don't have to do anything crazy,' " Calipari said. " 'So why do you keep trying to do crazy stuff?  You're too good a player.' "

Asked about his "crazy" plays, Towns smiled knowingly. He's still trying to strike the right balance between aggressiveness and recklessness.

"I guess I just play the game," Towns said. "I don't have (any) fear and if I have to do something that a lot of people say is very risky I'm kind of the guy that would be the guy who would try to do it. I guess, yeah, that makes me crazy."

Craziness aside, Towns has evolved into a go-to guy of sorts for a Kentucky team with unparalleled depth. There were times early in the season when he blended in, but no more.

"It took me some games," Towns said. "It's like I said, I went through the process naturally. I didn't make it artificial. I didn't try to rush everything. I just let it come to me and as time went on everything started to click."

He'll take the same approach to the next step Coach Cal is asking him to take.

"I'm on him because I want him to be the best," Calipari said. "I don't want him to be just a good big; I want him to be the best. He's working toward that."

Willie Cauley-Stein and the Wildcats will look to complete a perfect regular season on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Willie Cauley-Stein and the Wildcats will look to complete a perfect regular season on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
By no means is this the finish line.

A Saturday matchup with Florida marks but another step on a memorable journey, but this step merits some special attention.

With Kentucky a win away from completing the first perfect regular season by a power-conference team since 1975-76, even John Calipari stopped for a moment to think about what it's taken to get here.

"I'm not reflecting back right now, I'm looking forward," Coach Cal said. "But I will tell you for them to stay the course is a challenge in itself here."

With each win, the hype with which the top-ranked Wildcats (30-0, 17-0 Southeastern Conference) began the season has only intensified. Even so, they've remained as one.

"To stay into each other, to not listen and let the clutter affect who you are and how you play, it's amazing," Calipari said. "I mean, you got guys that aren't worried about Player of the Year, yet if they were playing 35 minutes a game and getting the ball every time, they'd be Player of the Year. They're not worried about it. They're just playing basketball. They're just trying to play for each other."

With the eyes of the college basketball world trained on Lexington for Saturday's 2 p.m. ET matchup with the Gators (15-15, 8-9 SEC), the Cats are choosing to keep that attitude. Like Coach Cal, they'll save most of their reflection for later.

"I think that's one of those things that's gonna hit you later," Willie Cauley-Stein said, "maybe not at the time just because, you know, it's not gonna really mean a lot at the time 'cause you still got other stuff--like after the season's over, a month from now, when you look back at how fast it went by."

The speed with which this season has passed was a common theme as UK held its normal pregame media availability. It seems, everyone agreed, like the Cats' preseason trip to the Bahamas only just ended.

"The season has flown by," Calipari said. "I can still remember me using the Bahamas, having a bunch of wide-eyed freshmen not knowing what in the world to expect that played well down there and started feeling good about themselves."

Calipari pointed to that trip as a proving ground for the platoon system that has helped carry Kentucky to 30-0. Taking full advantage of their unmatched depth, the Cats overwhelmed professional opponents even with Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles sidelined by injury.

"We'd have team meetings and (Coach Cal would) be like, 'This is crazy,' " Cauley-Stein said. " 'We don't even have our whole team here and we still look really good,' and how excited he was for everybody to be back and the season to get going."  

The excitement was justified.

The Cats have charged through the regular season, never losing their grip on the top spot in both major polls. They lead the nation comfortably in scoring margin at 21.4 and boast a defense that's allowed fewer points per possession than any since began measuring the statistic in 2001-02.

Mix all that in with the cohesiveness and chemistry of this group and it's clear that something unique is going on.

"I told them, you know, we have limited time together," Calipari said. "I told my staff, 'Every minute you can spend with these guys you better spend with them. I mean, when you get to the (Wildcat Coal) Lodge, we'll go to meals - let's just do everything together because this thing's going to wind down."

Saturday will be Senior Day for Sam Malone, Brian Long and Tod Lanter. Though none of the three has a regular role, the fact remains that this will be the last time this group plays together at Rupp Arena as currently constituted.

"It's very special because as a team we've been through a lot together this year," Tyler Ulis said. "It's going to be our last time playing at Rupp together. It'll probably be memorable. Last time Tod, Sam and (Brian) will play in Rupp. It'll be fun to play."

Whether the three seniors start remains to be seen. Cauley-Stein expects to be electric no matter what.

"It's probably going to be really good energy," Cauley-Stein said. "But it's going to be tough too at the same time, so it's not something that you can just take lightly and stroll in there and think you're going to win. You know, we're going to have to come to play."

A month ago, the Gators gave Kentucky all it could handle in a 68-61 Cats win in spite of playing much of the night without Michael Frazier II. The sharp-shooting guard is expected to be available on Saturday.

"Well, he spreads the court," Calipari said, "and what they're doing in their pick and rolls is just keeping everybody away from the basket, trying to get rim baskets or 3s or moving the ball from there into driving. Billy's (Donovan) done a great job with his team."

Just a year ago, it was Florida going for an unbeaten run through SEC play against Kentucky, but the Gators are now viewed as little more than a roadblock en route to an even more impressive feat. The Cats don't see it that way at all.

"That's how you get beat," Cauley-Stein said. "If you think about it like as a whole like that, you just gotta take it one step at a time and let nature take its course."

Recent Comments

  • brandon williams : I think that Kentucky is the best this year and i think that they can go all of the (40-0) read more
  • Julie Lowman: Jenn O'Neill you are the Troy Polamalu(and not talking bout the hair) of Women's BB. Enjoy your style of play...clean, read more
  • skeeter skeet: Cincy can say that Willie's dunk was not demoralizing, but they know that it was. They were totally different after read more
  • clint elkins: WILDCATS HAMPS40-0===REPEAT CHAMPS !! read more
  • Glenn Lambdin: I would like to see Kevin Booker and Trey Lyles involved more in the scoring process. When people play the read more
  • Shlton Joiner: Its tourney time all who get a chance want to beat the Cats. Play at your best cats let the read more
  • Berdj Joseph Rassam: Most people feel UK is unbeatable in the 2015 March Madness. read more
  • Jim Wright: Best of luck to MY C A T S --- 6 more games to go! I absolutely LOVE KY Basketball, read more