Kentucky scores early knockout against West Virginia

Andrew Harrison and the Wildcats were way too big for West Virginia.

Rick Osentoski/Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

CLEVELAND – Press Kentucky. Talk trash to Kentucky. Two more ideas that go in the trash can.

The Wildcats are 37-0 and three games from history. Their Thursday night Midwest regional semifinal vs. West Virginia was never in doubt; it finished 78-39.

Kentucky could have named its score in what was probably the worst game of the entire tournament. As usual, the Wildcats came in waves and were too tall, too fast, too precise.

"I was really pleased with our energy, with how zoned in our guys were," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "I wanted them to play loose. It was a great defensive effort."

West Virginia had hoped it could ugly the game up, battle Kentucky’s giants on the glass and employ full-court pressure to force turnovers and take the Wildcats out of their game.

The Mountaineers sure uglied it up. At the under-8 TV timeout in the first half, video replay review took away a point from West Virginia and made it 30-9.

"I think pretty much what I was afraid could happen, did happen," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "We couldn’t score."

The day before the game, West Virginia freshman guard Daxter Miles said Kentucky’s time had come and the Wildcats would be 36-1 after playing West Virginia.

He was a bit off.

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"They played great," Miles said, repeatedly, after the game.

Said Huggins: "That was a freshman saying that and I’m glad he had some confidence. It had nothing to do with (any of that). They just were way better than we were."

West Virginia didn’t pass 20 points until 11:43 remained. Five Kentucky players ended up in double figures, led by 14 from Trey Lyles. Willie Cauley-Stein had 8 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks.

At halftime, Kentucky’s Harrison Twins had 20 points and West Virginia had 18.

"We were just focused in," Andrew Harrison said. "We knew they were going to press us. We were ready."

Over 37 games, opponents are shooting 35 percent vs. Kentucky and getting outscored by an average of 21 points per game. West Virginia shot 24 percent and got beat by 39.

"Nobody scores around the basket against them," Huggins said. "They were what I thought they were and I thought they were the best team in the country.

"It’s the best defensive team I’ve ever coached against."

Another steamrolling Thursday night got the Wildcats a little closer to history.