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Cats expecting to bounce back from LSU loss

Kentucky has been good at bouncing back this season and as history suggests, that’s good news going into its showdown against top-ranked Tennessee on Saturday.

The fifth-ranked Wildcats had a 10-game winning streak snapped in a 73-71 loss to No. 19 LSU earlier this week. Losses aren’t good, but they can be learning lessons. Kentucky has taken a live and learn approach during its of its setbacks this season, three of which have been determined by a combined total of five points, including losses to league foes Alabama and LSU.

Following an embarrassing 118-84 setback to Duke in the season opener, Kentucky shifted its focus and reeled off seven consecutive victories before Seton Hall nipped the Wildcats 84-83 in overtime at Madison Square Garden. Even though coming off a tough loss, Kentucky responded with wins over Utah, No. 8 North Carolina, and 16th-ranked Louisville.

Not even a 77-75 setback to Alabama detoured Kentucky from its future path. What followed after the stunning loss to the Crimson Tide were 10 straight victories, including a tougher-than-expected sweep of Mississippi State.

Although losing to the Tigers narrowed the margin for error going into the last three weeks of the regular season, Kentucky still has a chanced to gain ground on the Volunteers and Tigers. The list of opponents include home games against Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas and Florida, while the remaining road contests are at Missouri, Tennessee and Ole Miss.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said the Wildcats have to regain their confidence on defense and “figure some of that stuff out.”

“I like this team,” he said. We’re good. (The game against LSU was) a tough game and we’ve got another tough one (Tennessee). The ones that are left here and on the road are tough. It’s going to be a struggle.”

Kentucky forward PJ Washington, who has been the team leader throughout conference play, said the Wildcats won’t forget the loss to the Tigers.

“We’re definitely going to remember it,” he said. “We felt like we should have won this game and it just hurts that we lost it, especially at home. I think we have a good team that pays attention to detail in practices. But to come out and perform like that was unacceptable.”

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is expecting a tough encounter against the Wildcats in the first of two showdowns between the two teams.

“They lost to a team (LSU) that is in a position to win this league as much as anybody,” Barnes said earlier this week. “I know John Calipari well enough to know that he is thinking about how to make his team better from that game. This is the next one of the schedule and we have to be prepared to do what we have done.”

Washington is confident the Wildcats will bounce back just as they did in the previous three setbacks.

“We’re looking to bounce back Saturday,” Kentucky forward PJ Washington said. “We look at every game the same and try not to underestimate anyone. We’re going to come out our hardest and just try to win.”

Sometimes that’s all it takes to get back on track.