CLEVELAND — All year long we've heard John Calipari say all he wants out of his unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats is the best versions of themselves.
Surely they came pretty darn close to that Thursday night.
Kentucky didn't just beat the trash-talking West Virginia Mountaineers in the Midwest Regional semifinal at the Quicken Loans Arena, the Cats disassembled Bob Huggins' club and the region's No. 5 seed 78-39.
Kentucky doubled the Mountaineers in both the score and shooting percentages. UK shot 48 percent. West Virginia shot 24.1. Kentucky got 44 rebounds to West Virginia 32. The Cats committed just 10 turnovers against WVU's much ballyhooed press. UK led 44-18 at the half. Name your stat.
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Remember when after Kentucky destroyed mighty Kansas in the Champions Classic back in November, Calipari opened his press conference by saying, "We're not that good."
The Cats were that good then and they are even better now.
"I was proud of the way we were zoned in," said Calipari afterward. "We did some good stuff in the first half."
Kentucky led 7-2 before Huggins could get his time out called. It was 14-2 Cats when Huggins decided he needed another timeout. It was 18-2 Cats at the 12:20 mark when Marcus Lee jammed home a lob from Tyler Ulis.
"(What happened) was what I was afraid would happen," Huggins said. "They shot poorly last game and they're too good to have back-to-back bad games."
Huggins also said this: "I think they're probably the best defensive team I've ever coached against."
Much was made of West Virginia freshman Daxter Miles promising on Wednesday that Kentucky would go from 36-0 to 36-1 after playing WVU. Miles said the Cats didn't play hard. Oh, but kids say the darnedest things.
If Kentucky wasn't focused before, surely those comments sharpened the Cats edge. Don't poke the bear. And if there is one thing we've learned about this particular team, when it is focused on its business it takes care of business.
"We were ready," said Dakari Johnson, who scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds.
But Thursday night brought back memories of that 72-40 thrashing of Kansas and that 83-44 thrashing of UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic during the pre-conference schedule.
"They came out with a lot of energy," said West Virginia guard Juwan Staten. "I watched a lot of film on them and that's probably the best I've seen them shoot the ball all year. They got the ball to the right places."
"We couldn't score," said Huggins, "which was my biggest fear."
The coach, who is good friends with Calipari, said you watch the film and no one scores around the basket on Kentucky. He said teams that have given them a little trouble are teams that have made enough shots to spread them out defensively.
"At the end of the day, they did what they were supposed to do," said WVU center Devin Williams. "You can't stop something that's destined."
At 37-0, Kentucky still has three games to go to 40-0. Strange things can happen. It's probably not realistic for even a Kentucky to play with the same execution and excellence it showed in this NBA arena. Plus, the competition will get tougher.
Notre Dame, which beat Wichita State 81-70 in Thursday's first semifinal, may be the best offensive team in the country.
Going into the tournament, Ken Pomeroy's advanced stats had the Irish ranked third nationally in offensive efficiency. Pomeroy ranks Kentucky as the nation's best team in defensive efficiency.
"They were what I thought they were, which is the best defensive team in the country," said Huggins. "To get those guys to play together, John has done a terrific job."
It's too soon to yet to hand any team the title, but Thursday night Kentucky played like a national title team.