Their ultimate goal is a return trip to "Cat-Lanta" — and two more games in the Georgia Dome, site of this season's Final Four. In the first game of a doubleheader featuring four of the country's best programs, No. 21 Michigan State knocked off No. 7 Kansas 67-64.
"This was a big game for these guys," Calipari said. "They were in Vegas playing AAU ball four months ago."
Even though Kentucky opened the season with a tight victory over Maryland, Calipari wasn't happy with his team's effort — especially on the boards. They were outrebounded 54-38 by the Terrapins, including 28 at the offensive end.
That was simply unacceptable given Kentucky's vaunted frontcourt featuring the 6-foot-10 Noel and 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein.
Rebounding wasn't as much of an issue this time — Duke finished with a 31-30 edge — but the experienced Blue Devils showed a bit more poise down the stretch.
"Nerlens played way more aggressive than he did against Maryland," Calipari said. "We're getting better. We were better than we were against Maryland. This team just had some seniors. But we had a chance. When we got it to three I said, 'We're going to win this.' They just made their free throws."
After Duke let Kentucky back in the game by continuing to put up errant jumpers, Curry finally changed things up. He gave a slight fake and took off for the hoop with just over 2 minutes remaining, forcing Goodwin to grab him by the arm. The senior knocked down both ends of the one-and-one, pushing Duke to a 66-61 lead with 2:04 remaining.
Poythress gave the Wildcats a semblance of hope, putting back a missed shot, but Curry blew by Goodwin again for a layin that made it 68-63 with 1:13 left and essentially sealed it. Calipari called a timeout and screamed at Goodwin as the freshman walked toward the bench.