Commentary

Kentucky will respond to tough loss

Updated: January 28, 2010, 4:35 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

I am already tired of hearing people say that it is great that Kentucky lost. I had people coming up to me at the Broken Egg in Lakewood Ranch; Wildcat fans claiming that it was a good thing that their team lost because it takes some of the pressure off.

Are you kidding me? I don't want to hear that! I don't believe that it is good to lose. Pressure about going undefeated? Give me a break!

Kentucky simply ran into a buzzsaw named Devan Downey on Tuesday night. He has been sensational, totaling 66 points in his last two games. He had a scintillating drive late against Florida, only to see Chandler Parsons of the Gators hit a clutch game-winning trifecta.

But with the help of his friends and a lot of passionate fans, Downey was not going to be denied. He lit up Kentucky for 30 points.

Though it goes down as an L for John Calipari, let's give him some credit for the phenomenal job he's done at Kentucky. Any time you take talented players from the scholastic ranks, it is not easy to get them to mesh. Having John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe blend into a unit -- understanding team concepts, defense -- that is special. He has done it in a short time, and it is all about coaching and communicating.

[+] EnlargeCalipari
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesJohn Calipari deserves praise for the job he's done at Kentucky and his Hoops for Haiti telethon.

Calipari has led this team in a positive way. Getting new people to work together is a challenge. Sure the 'Cats have talent, but how many teams win without talent?

The Kentucky program should also be proud of what it recently accomplished off the court. The Wildcats received a phone call from President Obama, praising them for raising over $1 million for the Haiti Relief efforts.

I don't want to hear an alibi or excuse that it is good to get a loss. I don't know if Calipari feels the same way. But I can tell you that this will be used as a learning experience and he will coach his players to many Ws the rest of the season.

There is no rest for the weary as Kentucky has to take on a tough Vanderbilt squad next. The Commodores are unbeaten in the SEC and Kevin Stallings' club has momentum after knocking off Tennessee.

Calipari will get his team focused. Even the President said they needed to stay focused, showing the same passion. He was telling them something valid.

Kentucky fans should be proud of what the team has achieved to date. They should not be down and disappointed by one setback.

The beauty of college basketball is March Madness. What really matters is cutting down the nets in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Believe me, if Kentucky is celebrating that, nobody will care about a loss to the Gamecocks.

This was a bump in the road and Kentucky will respond. This group is too talented and too well-coached not to.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.