He also understands the Wildcats can’t always rely on the homecourt advantage either, and expects a battle each time his team takes the court for the remainder of the season.
“Every game is a war,” he said. “Every game we’ll play will be a war.”
Although the Wildcats have won 31 straight games at home (the second-longest streak in the nation) heading into Saturday’s contest against South Carolina, Kentucky received a reminder that opponents have nothing to lose following an 85-79 triumph over Mississippi State earlier this week.
Calipari said becoming comfortable at home can be “dangerous.”
“This is the thing about coming home and playing — you come home, you think we’re going to win because we win at home? Oh, yeah? The other team is not just lying down,” he said. “They’re coming after you. If you play soft, you build their muscles. That’s what we did. They shot like 67 percent in the first half. I mean, it was ridiculous.”
The Bulldogs eventually cooled off, while Kentucky settled down and gained control in the second half.
“They came out on fire,” he said. “We knew after a while we could wear them out by playing our game. The time came and we got up by 12 and we just held it from there. It got a little close there at the end, but we finally held them off and played a good game.”
Similar to previous games, Kentucky still struggled to put away the Bulldogs down the stretch, a consistent issue for the Wildcats for most of the season.
“It can get frustrating at times for all of us,” Kentucky junior Darius Miller said of the team’s inability to deliver the proverbial knockout punch during close encounters. “We continue to talk about it and work at it, but we just have to stay focused. It is something we have to get better at.
As the regular season winds down, Calipari is simply happy to “win and you march on,” especially considering the balance in the Southeastern Conference.
“This league is a strong league,” he said. “All this stuff about this league, that league, the other leagues — let me explain to you, our league is as strong as any of them.”
He added that the Bulldogs will “get it together” sooner rather than later and could be a team to reckon with in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
“They’re a talented team,” he said. “They’re trying to figure out each other.”
By the time it’s all said and done, Calipari predicts there could be as many as six teams from the SEC in the NCAA Tournament.
“You know what, I’ll put what happens in the NCAA tournament with our league against just about anybody else’s,” he said. “Some of these guys, because of the media hype, might get nine teams in. But the reality of it is this is a strong league.”