Friday, March 27, 2015

Kentucky Does Talking on the Court, Dismantles West Virginia

(1) Kentucky 78
(4) West Virginia 39

Final from Cleveland, Ohio

NCAA Tournament - Midwest Region Semifinals

Game recap by UK:

CLEVELAND - The talk was everywhere.

The words coming out of the Mountaineer locker room made into every story previewing Kentucky and West Virginia's matchup. Daxter Miles Jr.'s guarantee that West Virginia would hand the Cats their first loss even made SportsCenter.

The Cats, meanwhile, responded with the equivalent of a silent head nod.

Andrew Harrison broke out his trademark dry sense of humor. Karl-Anthony Towns said everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Willie Cauley-Stein had the most dramatic reaction, but even he would only say the comments added "fuel to the fire."

The Cats, no doubt, preferred to let their play do the talking.

And their play talked plenty loud Thursday night.

"We've been talking about it all day," Tyler Ulis said. "Coming out and just demolishing them 'cause they were talking so much trash saying we were gonna be 36-1 and stuff like that. We felt like that was nonsense, so we just came out and killed 'em."

In a season full of devastating performances, the Cats delivered one of their best yet on the biggest stage yet. With a 78-39 destruction of the Mountaineers, UK moved to 37-0 and into the Elite Eight, and tied an NCAA Tournament record for the largest margin of victory in a Sweet 16 game.

"I was really pleased with the energy of our team," John Calipari said. "I was pleased with how zoned in they were, with how we were going to attack the press, how we were going to finish and we were going to just, hey, if we could score a hundred, score a hundred, just play."

For a while, the Cats seemed like they might threaten the century mark.

Within the first eight minutes, UK built an 18-2 lead. Aaron Harrison, scoring 10 points, chased away any worries about outside shooting woes lingering from last week's win over Cincinnati or Kentucky's 2010 Elite Eight loss to West Virginia by burying a pair of 3-pointers.

Harrison would finish with just 12 points and briefly departed with a dislocated finger, but the tone was set and West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins' fears realized.

"Well, I think pretty much what I was afraid could happen," Huggins said. "They shot the ball really poorly the last game, and they're too good to have probably back-to-back bad days shooting the ball, and they came out and made a bunch of shots."

Complete Recap

Box Score (click to enlarge):

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