The 2019-20 Kentucky Wildcats show no fear in opposing arenas. In fact, the players relish in the big moments away from Rupp Arena. They aren’t so different from their coach.
Kentucky is 3-1 this year in true road games, only falling to South Carolina on a desperation, bank-shot three-pointer at the buzzer. Tomorrow they’ll enter a sold out road arena for the third straight Saturday. Victorious in the first two, John Calipari believes he knows why his team is so prepared to play.
“We played a lot of road games early this year,” he smugly said. “Oh, we didn’t? So maybe that doesn’t matter.”
What does matter is the mindset of the players. By steering into the skid and embracing the noise, they are unfazed when adversity strikes.
“The whole thing is — how do you prepare your team? And I think, again, you can look at playing on the road and you can be inspired by it or you can be overwhelmed by it. You can be excited about playing on the road and have fun with it, or you can be, ‘oh my gosh, we gotta go into that environment.'”
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Kentucky Wildcat that cowers beneath the limelight. Prior to the trip to Texas Tech, Johnny Juzang shared just how much he loved being the bad guy on the road.
“I’ve always loved those big away games. Me, I’m just weird like that. I like being the villain coming in, you know what I mean? It always excites me a little bit.” Juzang added: “You feel the energy.”
Coach Cal believes that mentality has trickled down from the head coach to all of his players.
“I think a lot of it comes from we as a staff, how we feel about road games,” Calipari said.
“I’ve said it before, and they know this, if I don’t get thoroughly booed when I’m introduced, I am mad and it gets me close to retirement. If I walk into a building they don’t even know I walked in and there’s no booing, I know I’m winding it down.”
Don’t worry, Cal. Auburn Arena will sound a lot like this Saturday evening.