Win over UNC sends message: Cats are for real

The Kentucky Wildcats passed the first major test of the John Calipari era by beating the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels 68-66. The final score was a bit misleading as the Wildcats appeared to be on cruise control with a comfortable lead through the first few minutes of the second half before freshman sensation John Wall developed cramps and left the game.

The Kentucky Wildcats passed the first major test of the John Calipari era by beating the defending champion North Carolina Tar Heels 68-66. The final score was a bit misleading as the Wildcats appeared to be on cruise control with a comfortable lead through the first few minutes of the second half before freshman sensation John Wall developed cramps and left the game.

With Wall out, the Tar Heels engineered a methodical comeback, making the last few moments of the game very interesting if not quite a nail-biter. The game sent several messages to the world of college basketball.

To the naysayers who believed that the Cats were overhyped after seeing several close games early in the season, the message was simple: the Wildcats are indeed for real.

To anyone watching the game, the message was that John Wall is even more critical to Kentucky's success than originally believed.

To DeMarcus Cousins, the message was "welcome to high-level Division I basketball. It's tougher than you think." The big freshman plowed through a lighter early season schedule averaging 16 points and nearly nine rebounds a game. Against the Tar Heels, Cousins played only 15 minutes, got into foul trouble and went just 2-7 from the field and 1-5 from the free throw line. This game will likely serve as a wakeup call for the big man. My guess is he will respond in his next effort.

To future opposing coaches, the message was, in a tight game don't foul Wall or Eric Bledsoe down the stretch; both ball handlers are money from the free throw line.

To fans of North Carolina the resounding message was, whatever slim hope you held of hitting 2000 overall victories prior to Kentucky reaching the mark, just went down the drain.

The Wildcats victory over North Carolina could not have come at a better time. The win should bolster their confidence heading into their next big test, a Wednesday road game against #14 Connecticut. The tight finish will temper that confidence with the reality that they will have to work very hard to win that game.


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