Cleveland, Ohio Thursday, March 26, 2015 – By Ricky Blair
You should never wake a sleeping giant. West Virginia found that out the hard way by doing a lot of trash talking before their match-up with the Wildcats on Thursday in the NCAA sweet sixteen clash. West Virginia guard Daxter Miles had said before the game that the Wildcats did not play hard and that UK would be 36-1 after the game. Well what the young Miles and the West Virginia Mountaineers found out, is don’t give this number one ranked and undefeated Kentucky team added motivation. Kentucky demolished the Mountaineers 78-39 to move on the Midwest Regional final and chance to reach the Final Four in Indianapolis. Kentucky took the challenge personal about not playing hard and raced out to an 18-2 lead eight minutes into the game. The early lead came courtesy of Aaron Harrison’s ten quick points and a suffocating defense. It was 30-9 at the 8-minute mark in the first half and the Wildcats finished off the half with a 44-18 lead. Game over!
Kentucky’s defense was overwhelming for the Mountaineers. At the half West Virginia had only made 5 field goals and had shot 19 per cent from the field. Kentucky had more steals (4) and blocks (3) combined than the Mountaineers had field goals. West Virginia had been known for causing turnovers, but they had 7 at the half, compared to only 5 for Kentucky. The second half was more of the same, as the Wildcats went up by as many as 41 points before coasting to the 39-point victory. The 39-point win was the largest sweet sixteen victory of all time. It is also the first time a team had doubled the other teams score in the regional semi-final since 1940. “They had a good day today and we had a miserable day, you know, so we lose by 40.” Said WVU coach Bob Huggins. Good indeed. If the Wildcats play like this the rest of the way, banner number nine is not far behind.
The Wildcats were led in scoring by freshman forward Trey Lyles who had 14 points, but it was a balanced attack as Andrew Harrison finished with 13 points and both Aaron Harrison and Devin Booker finished with 12 apiece. Willie Cauley-Stein was his normal self with 8 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and a steal. It was a terrific game for everyone except Karl-Anthony Towns who could never get into the flow, but on this night Towns was not needed.
With the win Kentucky now moves to 37-0 on the season and will now take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday at 9:00 PM with a trip to the Final Four on the line.