CRAWFORD | What happens when UK makes shots? Devastation. Cats b - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | What happens when UK makes shots? Devastation. Cats beat UCLA 83-44

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CHICAGO (WDRB) — So that's what happens when Kentucky makes shots.

The unfortunate witnesses were the UCLA Bruins, who in a nationally televised CBS Sports Classic game against the Wildcats missed their first 17 shots while UK jumped to a 24-0 lead. They trailed 41-7 at half. UK wound up winning 83-44.

Oh, and those 35 second-half points? That was your Christmas gift UCLA.

UK coach John Calipari said his players were so excited to get four days off that they played with great enthusiasm.

“These guys are so excited about going home for Christmas and spending four days with their families and it showed in that basketball game,” Calipari said.

UCLA is not a great team, but the Bruins are not as bad as they looked against UK. Neither is Kansas. Neither is North Carolina, which beat a nationally ranked Ohio State in Saturday's first game in the United Center.

You don't need a 50-inch screen to see the trend there.

“In my 24 years of coaching, that's the best team I've coached against,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “That doesn't excuse a 41-7 half, but those guys are really good. . . . They have everything. . . . And if they make shots like that, it gets even harder.”

Playing UK in a big game has been big trouble. Put them on CBS and the carnage is worse than an episode of NCIS.

After the game, Calipari approached Alford. “I just said, that's our good game right there," Calipari said. "That's as good as we go.”

At halftime, I thought they might distribute UCLA uniforms to Kentucky's second “platoon.” Maybe they should have. 

While the starters staked UK to an early lead, it was once again the second unit that provided the accelerant to a blowout. The Wildcats were plus-56 when Ulis, Booker, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee were on the court together.

With 5:49 left, CBS ran a graphic of the 1976 undefeated Indiana Hoosiers, and the implication was clear. Who is going to come close to these guys?

“Please don't compare us to teams in college that have three Hall of Famers on their team,” Calipari said after the game.

If the Wildcats make 12 of 26 three-pointers and shoot 50 percent from the field overall — with 25 assists on 32 made baskets — like they did on Saturday, I can't imagine who will.

Coming into this game, I wrote that it was a game for the Wildcats guards to shine. Aaron Harrison scored the game's first five points. Devin Booker came off the bench to contribute an eight-point run all by himself.

Booker wound up 5 of 6 from three-point range and had 19 points. Harrison was 6 of 11 from the field an had 15. Tyler Ulis had 7 points, 6 assists and 7 rebounds. Andrew Harrison had eight points, eight assists. For those keeping score, UK's guards outscored UCLA's entire team, 49-42.

What can you say? “These guys aren't computers,” UK coach John Calipari sometimes says when they don't play well.

Maybe they are.

Against Kansas, North Carolina and now UCLA, UK has outscored those storied programs 239-152.

This was a Secretariat-in-the-Belmont kind of moment for Kentucky. And it's only Dec. 20.

Calipari, after the game, tried again, before a big-city media contingent, to cast the story of his team around the notion of his players sharing minutes.

“The one thing I'm doing is really enjoying these guys,” Calipari said. “We can all talk about defense and blocking shots and playing hard — we've got 11 guys sharing minutes, two of the best point guards in the country, both of them, sharing minutes, big guys, Karl Towns and Dakari Johnson sharing minutes, Willie, one of the best big guys in the country, sharing minutes with Lee. And you've Aaron Harrison, he's really good, sharing with Devin Booker. Think about that. . . . If it was your son and he was up on that board with draft potential, would you be okay with him playing 20 minutes. That's the story. No one played more than 23 minutes.”

Calipari noted how well his veterans are playing, but gave credit to the energy his freshmen are bringing. “Those young guys,” he said. “I like them. I'll take mine, you take yours.”

Calipari insists that his players aren't machines.

“They don't play great every time out,” he said.

But when they do, this is what it looks like.

“I've been around for a long time as a player and a coach,” Alford said. “You talk about a dream team. . . . Coach (Bob) Knight it was always his dream that he could get five guys 6-7, 6-8 and switch everything. They just about can. . . . They are really good defensively. They guard you and guard pick-and-rolls well, and then when you beat them, and you can, you've got guys 6-11, 7-foot and they're both going after you. . . . If they continue to play at that level defensively, I'm convinced they've got a chance to run this thing out. They're that good. . . . And as the season goes, they're just going to get better. If this thing gets to 18, 19, 20, I don't think you're going to get them. Because they're going to get hungrier.”

(CORRECTION: About an hour after the end of the game, scorekeepers discovered that they had not counted a UCLA basket. The score in the story has been corrected to reflect that change.)

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