Kentucky coach John Calipari screams instructions to his team during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida in Gainesville, Fla., Saturday, Feb 7, 2015. Kentucky defeated Florida 68-61. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
Phil Sandlin
February 09, 2015

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Top-ranked Kentucky keeps racking up victories and is now just two away from matching the best start in program history.

The unbeaten Wildcats hope their pursuit for perfection restores some of their swagger as well.

Make no mistake, Kentucky relishes remaining unbeaten along with being mentioned alongside the 1965-66 ''Rupp's Runts'' squad that also started 23-0.

But the extra effort needed last week to beat Georgia and Florida - both heavy underdogs - by 11 and seven points respectively also suggests the long season that basically began last summer in the Bahamas is wearing on the Wildcats (10-0 Southeastern Conference).

''It's typical this time of year,'' Kentucky coach John Calipari said of his team's stamina during Monday's SEC coaches' teleconference.

''Our season was stretched out a little bit. (It) started down in the Bahamas and so it's a long year. (And) we're trying to do this without Trey (Lyles, sidelined by illness). We're basically holding down the fort without Trey.''

To that end, the coach has tried to address that issue by giving players extra days off such as Sunday in hopes of recharging them. The Wildcats know they'll need more of an edge in Tuesday night's next road test at LSU (17-6, 6-4).

''I think every team really wants to beat us just because we have the No. 1 ranking at the moment and just that bulls-eye on our backs,'' point guard Andrew Harrison said. ''I've been trying to tell the team, just take it personal. They're trying to rush the floor on us and everything. Don't let them do that.''

After rallying for a halftime tie at Florida on Saturday, the Wildcats showed resolve in the second half to eventually pull out a 68-61 victory. The highlight was 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein's full-extension dunk in transition that seemed to motivate Kentucky.

Calipari wants to see that intensity more often, and especially at a sold-out Pete Maravich Assembly Center that figures to be even louder than Gainesville's O'Connell Center was on Saturday.

''We had a great warm-up game, you could say, at Florida,'' freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns said. ''The crowd was amazing there and we just have to come (Tuesday), be mentally focused. We have to do what we have to do.''

LSU beat Kentucky last February in Baton Rouge for its lone win in the past eight meetings. The Tigers hope their venue provides a follow-up to Saturday night's 71-60 win over Alabama that featured a reshuffled lineup including sophomore Tim Quarterman and freshman Jalyn Patterson in the backcourt.

That duo combined for 21 points and 15 rebounds, contributions that seemed to boost leading scorer Jordan Mickey (17.0 points per game) and fellow forward Jarell Martin. Those Tigers regulars had 24 and 16 points respectively against the Crimson Tide.

''We just tried to shake things up to spread the ball around,'' LSU coach Johnny Jones said.

Kentucky's task is getting scoring from more players than it did against Florida. Five players comprised the Wildcats' scoring with Aaron Harrison (23 points) and Towns (19) leading the way.

Florida also penetrated the lane often against Kentucky, which concerned Calipari more than the scoring. Lyles' absence had a lot to do with that, and the Wildcats are hopeful he can return soon to improve things there.

Despite all that Kentucky still took control of the game at a venue where it had recently struggled, and now seeks more consistency.

''We have been so competitive that we really go at it and we really keep ourselves focused,'' Towns said. ''We just do a great job of just making sure every day when we come into the gym we're trying to improve on some aspect of our game or as a team. The biggest thing is we're doing that every day and that's what people are seeing the results of.''

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