The road to the undefeated season for Kentucky is almost over following a 74-56 win over Mississippi State, led by unlikely hero Trey Lyles, although there really isn’t anything surprising about any one of their players stepping up to the plate and delivering.
Lyles scored 18 points, a career high for the Freshman, one of the players it’s easy to miss when you’re looking at the more well known talent on this squad, leading Kentucky to their best ever regular season, which included 28 consecutive wins, something that’s never been done in one season by this program. At 28-0, they’re three regular season games away from perfection, and it’s hard seeing anyone getting in their way during the SEC tournament.
Calipari himself hasn’t been a coach of a team that’s won 28 games in a row. His 2008-2009 Memphis team won 27 games in a row. That team reached the Sweet Sixteen, and it was Calipari’s last season with the Tigers before moving on to coach Big Blue. If Kentucky stick to the plan over the next three games, which includes playing ranked Arkansas and Florida at home on the season finisher, it’ll be the second time for Calipari in Kentucky with a perfect record in the SEC, going 16-0 in 2011-2012, going on to win the national championship.
I just told the guys, ‘Look, I can fight you for the next 40 days if that’s what you want. And I will fight you. Or you can just play like you’re capable of playing. They know what we want them to do. Treyshould have had 25 points today, but I thought he played well. I still think at the end of the day he’ll be the X factor for us.
With 15:10 remaining in the second half, Kentucky held just a four point lead in front of a half empty Humphrey Coliseum due to the rare snowstorm to hit Mississippi. But some bad shots by the Bulldogs which helped Kentucky create some easy points via blocks and fast breaks gave the Wildcats the run they needed to seal this game for good, making it a rather comfortable and anti climatic ending, which is probably how they prefer things to be.
Aaron Harrison scored 16 and Devin Booker had a good game off the bench, scoring 16 points. This team doesn’t have anyone who is going to win national awards because it’s impossible to stand out for too long among so many talented players. They don’t always do what Calipari wants them to, but it doesn’t stop them from winning. And they’ve been able to get over the stretch of more difficult games with some very convincing performances. The closer we get to March, the harder it seems it’ll be for anyone to take them down.