The race to 2,000 wins was one of Kentucky’s goals for the early portion of the schedule. Having reached that milestone, the team now shifts its focus to winning the program’s eighth national championship.
The third-ranked Wildcats look to follow up their benchmark victory Wednesday when they host Long Beach State.
John Calipari tried to downplay Kentucky’s pursuit of 2,000 wins, but after his Wildcats became the first NCAA team to reach that mark with Monday’s 88-44 victory over Drexel, the coach admitted it was pretty special.
“We weren’t a part of many of those 2,000 wins (but) we had a job to do and that was drag us across the line before that other blue team got there,” Calipari said, referring to North Carolina. “This is a special moment for this program and this state.”
The Wildcats (12-0), who started the season four wins ahead of the Tar Heels, celebrated the milestone victory as streamers and confetti rained down on the Rupp Arena court. They then quickly turned their attention to winning the school’s first NCAA title since 1998.
“It’s a blessing but we’re looking at the big picture,” senior guard Ramon Harris said. “And the big picture is (being) the last team standing on the court. It really starts now.”
The Wildcats certainly looked like legitimate contenders Monday while putting together their most lopsided win of the season. They shot 53.4 percent and outrebounded the Dragons 45-22.
“That’s as good as we’ve played together,” Calipari said.
Kentucky is off to its best start since the 1983-84 team also opened with 12 consecutive wins en route to a Final Four appearance.
“We are on our way to a national title, that’s what we have wanted all year,” forward Jon Hood said. “We are waiting and working toward that. Everyday we have to get better if we want to achieve that.”
Superstar freshman John Wall has been instrumental to Kentucky’s outstanding start. The 6-foot-4 guard is averaging a team-best 17.8 points and leads the SEC with 7.0 assists per game.
“He is the main cog in this little machine we got going here,” Calipari said.
Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins also play key offensive roles. Patterson is averaging 19.3 points on 60.5 percent shooting in his last three games, while Cousins is averaging 17.0 points and shooting 51.5 percent over the same span.
Kentucky, which has won its six home games against unranked opponents by an average of 20.3 points, doesn’t figure to get much of a scare in this contest.
Long Beach State (6-5) has been outscored by an average of 21.3 points in losing its three games against Top 25 opponents this season, and has lost 16 in a row to ranked foes since defeating then-No. 25 New Mexico State 84-83 on Feb. 24, 1994.
The 49ers fell 85-80 in overtime Monday at Loyola Marymount despite another huge performance from T.J. Robinson.
The 6-foot-7 sophomore had 22 points and 18 rebounds for his fifth double-double in six games. He is averaging 20.3 points and 12.7 boards in that span.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the 49ers, who visit No. 7 Duke on Tuesday.
This is the first meeting between these schools.