College hoops: UNC, Kentucky on march toward 2,000

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Will Graves
Associated PressLEXINGTON, Ky. ó Kentucky has long trumpeted itself as the program with “the greatest tradition in college basketball.” Now the Wildcats are closing in on another piece of history: the first program with 2,000 victories.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats are five wins shy in their 107th season heading into Saturday’s game against No. 10 North Carolina, which ranks second in victories with 1,991.
“It’s a big deal for the Commonwealth,” said coach John Calipari of reaching the plateau first.
However, Calipari is more focused with getting his young team ready for what is also important to Wildcats fans ó championships.
“The reality of it is we’re playing for March,” Calipari said. “That’s how I’ve always coached. We’re playing for March.”
Kentucky (7-0) has 1,995 victories, the first coming when the school known as State College beat the Lexington YMCA 11-10 on Feb. 18, 1903.
The Tar Heels (7-1) have rapidly closed the gap on Kentucky during a three-season stretch that ranks among the most successful in their history. After winning 30 games in three straight seasons for the first time ó not to mention last year’s national championship ó North Carolina has reduced the gap from 43 victories entering the 2006-07 season to just four heading into Saturday.
Not that Kentucky freshman star John Wall is counting.
“Whoever gets there first gets there first,” Wall said. “But everything is going to tell at the end, whoever wins the championship.”
Saturday’s game marks the beginning of the first truly difficult stretch of the season for Kentucky, which is looking to end a five-game losing streak to the Tar Heels. Matchups against No. 14 Connecticut and traditional rival Indiana loom in the next 10 days.