Kentucky moved to 37-0 on the season with a dominant 78-39 win over No. 5 seed West Virginia in the Midwest Regional on Thursday night. The No. 1 seed Wildcats jumped out to an 18-2 lead to open the game and increased that cushion to 44-18 at the half before clamping down even more in the second half in an impressive 40 minutes of basketball.
The Wildcats were led by a balanced effort on offense and a stifling effort on defense that saw West Virginia score only one field goal during one 17-minute stretch.
Freshman forward Trey Lyles paced Kentucky with 14 points while sophomore guard Andrew Harrison added 13 points. Aaron Harrison, Dakari Johnson and Devin Booker all scored 12 points each for the Wildcats. Even with Karl-Anthony Towns going 0-for-3 from the field and only scoring one point, Kentucky throttled a power-conference team in easy fashion and this game showed, once again, just how deep this team is.
Much was made of Mountaineer freshman guard Daxter Miles Jr. saying that Kentucky would be “36-1” after Thursday night’s game, but the truth is, Kentucky didn’t need the extra bulletin-board material to enter this game hyped.
When the bright lights come on in the biggest games this season, Kentucky just has an extra gear that they hit early and maintain for a full 40 minutes. We’ve already seen the Wildcats thoroughly destroy Kansas and UCLA this season in neutral-site showcase games, but those games didn’t come in March during the Sweet 16.
Some believed that West Virginia stood a chance against Kentucky because of the Mountaineers’ menacing full-court pressure and head coach Bob Huggins’ positive track record against John Calipari. The Wildcats quickly put those theories to rest and never gave West Virginia a chance.
Senior guard Juwan Staten was the only double-figure scorer for West Virginia (25-10) with 14 points while sophomore forward Devin Williams added nine points. Miles Jr. wasn’t able to back up his talk, as he finished scoreless with one rebound on the evening. The Mountaineers shot 24 percent (13-for-54) from the field and only forced Kentucky into 10 turnovers.
Without the added benefit of many easy baskets off of turnovers, West Virginia didn’t stand a chance. Kentucky shot 48 percent (24-for-50) from the field and found numerous opportunities to throw alley-oops once they broke the Mountaineer press.
Kentucky advances to the Elite Eight in the Midwest Regional where they’ll face No. 3 seed Notre Dame for a trip to Indianapolis next weekend.