Kentucky mauls Mountaineers on the way to 37-0 and another Elite Eight

The Dagger

It’s not like undefeated Kentucky needed any further motivation entering Thursday night’s Sweet 16 game in the NCAA tournament against West Virginia.

The Wildcats were only four wins away from a perfect 40-0 season and second national championship in three seasons. But the added motivation came just the same. 

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The most significant blow to the beehive came from West Virginia freshman Daxter Miles Jr., who foolishly predicted Kentucky would be 36-1 after facing the Mountaineers. About halfway through the first half, it was clear it was no contest and the Wildcats eventually ran away to a 78-39 victory to advance to the Elite Eight.

The other extra boost in their tanks came from the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association honoring Virginia’s Tony Bennett with its National Coach of the Year award this season instead of coach John Calipari, who is now two wins away from leading his team to the national title game in three consecutive seasons. This is the fifth consecutive year the Wildcats have played in the Elite Eight. 

Mar 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins during the first half against the Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals of the midwest regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena. (Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)
Mar 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins during the first half against the Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals of the midwest regional of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena. (Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports)

This one was far too ugly for prime time, the kind of uncompetitive dud television executives fear. It had CBS announcer Marv Albert checking the NCAA record book in the final minutes to find the most lopsided games in NCAA tournament history.

It was pure defensive dominance against a pressing West Virginia team with a defensive approach that has given opponents fits all year. The 39 points scored by West Virginia were the fewest in a Sweet 16 game in the shot clock era. 

West Virginia, a team that doesn’t shoot particularly well from the perimeter and needs to get to the basket, wasn’t able to. The Mountaineers were clearly intimidated at times by Kentucky’s size and length and starts one-for-10 from the field. West Virginia fell behind 18-2 and it never got much better.

The Mountaineers didn’t score their 20th point until 11 minutes 41 seconds remained in the game. Five players scored in double figures for Kentucky led by Trey Lyles, who finished with 14. 

The biggest problem Kentucky encountered in this one came in the middle of the second half when guard Aaron Harrison appeared to suffer a dislocated finger. He was taken to the locker room for treatment and came back to the bench with two fingers taped together. He even checked back into the game for a few minutes of mop-up duty.

It remains to be seen if the injury will affect Harrison in an Elite Eight game Sunday against a much better shooting team in Notre Dame.

When the game ended and Kentucky players returned to their locker room, guard Devon Booker took to Twitter with a subtle message directed at Daxter Miles Jr. and anyone else who might get the idea in their head that talking trash ahead of meeting the Wildcats is a good idea.

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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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