BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana took its best shot at No. 4 Kentucky on Saturday.
The Wildcats retaliated with a shrug and a knockout punch in a 90-73 victory.
John Wall got the offense in sync, setting up a decisive 18-0 second-half run that gave the Wildcats their first win in Bloomington since 1981. It was just what Kentucky coach John Calipari thought his team needed.
"What I was so happy about is how Indiana came out and tried to run us off the floor and made every shot and just played with unbelievable energy," Calipari said. "We played well. I just want to tell the people of Indiana: We're not better than that."
Calipari was so impressed with his team's effort he even credited it with a win on his personal log, which now lists Kentucky at 5-5. Officially, the Wildcats are 10-0, off to their best start since 1992-93, and Calipari has matched the best start for a first-year Kentucky coach since Adolph Rupp in 1930-31.
Kentucky moved within two wins of becoming the first Division I school with 2,000 all-time victories, and perhaps more importantly to Calipari, proved it could fight back when challenged.
Wall, the freshman with the mesmerizing moves, adapted by doing more of the dirty work Saturday. He finished with 11 points, eight below his average, eight assists and seven rebounds. Another freshman, Eric Bledsoe, led Kentucky with 23 points, including four 3-pointers, and junior forward Patrick Patterson was his usual self, scoring 19 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. It was Patterson's fifth double-double of the season.
But when the Wildcats found themselves in need of a boost in the second half, they used their advantages in size, speed and depth -- under Calipari's instructions.
"We just wanted to keep the pressure on, continue playing basketball," Patterson said. "It started on the defensive end, we was talking, communicating, switching, contesting shots. DeMarcus [Cousins] and Ramon [Harris] had some rebounds and John and Eric were starting the break, pushing it."
Not surprisingly, the game between the border rivals came with some new twists.
The frenzied Indiana crowd welcomed Calipari to the series with repeated reminders of his NCAA trouble. Students chanted "S-A-T, S-A-T," -- a response to questions about who took Derrick Rose's standardized tests during Calipari's tenure at Memphis -- and "Hello Cheater." Another student held a sign reading: "Calipari borrowed my SAT."
Though the fans fed the Hoosiers energy, the distractions couldn't prevent Kentucky from its eighth win in the last 10 meetings in the series. The teams have been playing on an annual basis but had played 15 straight years on neutral courts in Indianapolis and Louisville before going to back to home courts in 2006.
Clearly, Indiana (4-5) was better than it was in last season's contest, in which it trailed 14-0 and 32-6 in the first half. The Hoosiers led 12-4 after 4 minutes, nearly matching their 13-point first-half total from last December.
They just didn't have enough to contend for 40 minutes.
Freshman Maurice Creek scored a season-high 31 points and hit five 3s for Indiana. Nobody else scored more than seven points, and the Hoosiers were outrebounded 49-24 overall, 21-8 on the offensive end.
"We're making progress," coach Tom Crean said. "Where we didn't make enough progress was on the boards. We've got to do a much better job of keeping them off the glass. Last year we played at Kentucky, it was a stunned locker room. Today, it's a hurt locker room and that's progress, too."
In fact, the Hoosiers led for the first half of the first half, right until Patterson missed the second of two free throws, Darius Miller grabbed the rebound and Bledsoe hit a 10-foot fallaway on the baseline to make it 21-19 with 9:33 left. The Wildcats then extended the lead to 38-30.
Things changed quickly in the second half.
After Jeremiah Rivers made a nifty driving layup to give Indiana a 48-47 lead, Wall scored on an athletic alley-oop dunk. Kentucky then hit a 3 or converted three-point plays on four of their next five scoring possessions to make it 65-48.
"I said our job is to make it hard for them in the second half because they may come out and shoot 70 percent in the second half, but let's just make it hard," Calipari said. "In the first they shot 63 percent, 62 percent from the 3 and 100 percent from the foul line and we're up one. Well, guess what, we played well, too."