Dec. 20, 2014
CHICAGO (AP) – No. 1 Kentucky made it look so easy that coach John Calipari felt the need to point out he had actual human beings on the court.
The only question was the final score, and that took longer to decide than the game.
Devin Booker had 19 points, and the Wildcats scored the first 24 points in an 83-44 victory over UCLA on Saturday.
“They’re not machines and they’re not computers,” Calipari said. “They don’t play great every time out.”
They sure looked like machines the way they dominated this game.
Aaron Harrison added 15 points, and the Wildcats (12-0) handed the Bruins (8-4) one of their most-lopsided losses ever.
The first meeting between the storied programs in eight years turned ugly as soon as the game started, with Kentucky dominating UCLA in every possible way. It was so bad that officials lost track of one of the Bruins’ second-half baskets and put out an amended box score about 90 minutes after the game.
It hardly mattered.
The opening 24-0 run was eight shy of the record between two Division I teams, set by Connecticut against New Hampshire on Dec. 12, 1990. And the 39-point margin was nine shy of the Bruins’ record.
Kentucky led 41-7 at the intermission. It was the lowest point total in a half for UCLA and the fewest by a Kentucky opponent since December 1943.
“We just have to keep playing against ourselves,” Booker said. “Coach always stresses that to us – that we’re not playing against the other team, we’re playing against ourselves. Just keep playing. You can’t look at the score.”
UCLA coach Steve Alford was so impressed he said the Wildcats might not lose a game this season.
“If they continue to play at that level defensively, I’m a firm believer they got a chance to run this thing out,” he said.
Kentucky was simply too deep and too athletic, with a 10-man rotation and three starters standing 6-foot-10 or taller. Some of those players probably would get more time and put up bigger numbers elsewhere. But they almost certainly would not be on a team as dominating as this one.
“People can watch these guys in 20 minutes and know how really good they are,” Calipari said. “They don’t need 40 minutes, and these kids are great. We’re a really good team with a bunch of guys, 10 guys, that all could score double figures.”
Booker hit 5 of 6 3-pointers and 7 of 10 shots overall. Harrison made three 3-pointers, nailing one to start the game, and Kentucky hit 12 in all from long range to the delight of their cheering fans.
The Wildcats also played stifling defense, with the Bruins missing their first 17 shots and going 19 for 71.
Isaac Hamilton led UCLA with 14 points and Bryce Alford scored 13. But they came after Kentucky put this one away – which didn’t take long.
In the second game of a doubleheader at the United Center that started with No. 24 North Carolina beating No. 12 Ohio State, the Wildcats erased all doubt about this one almost as soon as it started.
Harrison’s 3 from the wing got things started, and Kentucky just poured it on from there, blocking shots, breaking for dunks and nailing jumpers.
Wildcat fans just about came unglued after Harrison nailed a 3 to make it 16-0 with 16:27 remaining, chanting “Go Big Blue!” during a timeout. And the lead continued to climb.
Booker capped the run with back-to-back 3-pointers and a breakaway dunk off a block by Dakari Johnson against Alford, making it 24-0 with 12:40 left in the half.
The Bruins finally broke the shutout 23 seconds later on a layup by Kevon Looney.
A photo posted by Kentucky Men’s Basketball (@kentuckymbb) on Dec 12, 2014 at 4:38pm PST