CHICAGO — John Calipari said he could not find the scoreboards in the United Center during the first half Saturday.
"I did not know what the score was," he said before executing a comedic pause. "I knew it was pretty good."
That might hold up as the understatement of the season. In a game featuring college basketball's most decorated dynasties, Kentucky humiliated UCLA with surreal ease.
The Cats' 83-44 victory smashed the mark for Steve Alford's most lopsided defeat as UCLA coach (a 22-point loss to North Carolina in the Bahamas last month). Alford became the sixth opposing coach to suffer his worst defeat at the hands of Kentucky this season. Like the previous five, he came away from a blowout defeat with a sense of appreciation.
"I don't know in my 20 years of coaching at the Division I level that I've coached against a better team than what this team looks like," Alford said of Kentucky. "They have everything."
Kentucky, which set a school record by starting a season with 12 consecutive victories by double-digit margins, excelled on defense, offense and the kicking (butt) game.
UCLA came into the CBS Sports Classic ranked No. 17 nationally in scoring (80.8 ppg). The Bruins did not reach double digits until 58 seconds into the second half, did not get to 20 points until 11:39 remained. It was easily the lowest-scoring game for an Alford-coached UCLA team (previously 55 at Washington State on March 8, 2014).
Kentucky also made a season-high 12 three-point shots, the most by UK since making 15 against Georgia on March 1, 2012.
"That's our good game right there," Calipari said. "That's as good as we go. And I told Steve that."
Alford made a reference to an undefeated season, or, to use sporting parlance, running the table.
"I'm a firm believer they've got a chance to run this thing out," he said. "They're that good. They're that talented."
UCLA (8-4) did manage to escape the most lopsided loss in the history of a proud program deep in rebuilding mode. That mark remains a 109-61 loss to Stanford on Jan. 9, 1997.
The Bruins' leading scorer, Bryce Alford, missed all six of his shots in the first half and didn't score until only 15:17 remained. He finished with 13 points.
Judging by the statistics, the first half was a cartoon. Something from an alternate reality where the rules we live by do not apply. The halftime score summed it up: Kentucky led 41-7.
Kentucky did the basketball equivalent of hitting UCLA on the head with a frying pan. And when UK removed the weapon, UCLA's head remained in a shape of a frying pan.
The Bruins made only three of 37 shots (8.1 percent). At the under-four timeout, UCLA had made three of 33 shots, a stat that evoked Kentucky's 3-for-33 second-half shooting against Georgetown in the 1984 Final Four. The Cats blocked more than twice as many shots (eight) as UCLA put in the basket (three).
To explain UK's defense, Alford said, "They can basically switch five ways. And Coach (Bob) Knight, I think that was always his dream. ... That's hard to score on."
UCLA missed its first 17 shots. During that opening seven-plus minutes, Alford called three timeouts. None slowed the onslaught as Kentucky rolled up a 24-0 lead.
If Calipari could not find the scoreboards, UCLA freshman star Kevon Looney was acutely aware.
"Very, very conscious of it," he said of the 24-0 score. "You've got to score a basket. That's terrible. You never should play a game where you score seven points in a half. ...
"Going through my head (was) 'we've got to score. We've got to make the game closer.' And we couldn't do it."
UCLA finally scored on Looney's drive (heavily contested by two UK players) with 12:16 left.
A play midway through the half showed UK's acute attention to detail this day. After UCLA's shooting slipped to 1-for-22 on an attempt that did not hit the rim, the Cats forced a 35-second shot clock violation. It preserved a 28-2 lead.
Surprisingly, Kentucky did not break the record for first-half defense in the three-point era. Eastern Michigan led Northern Illinois 18-4 at halftime on Jan. 27, 2013. Northern Illinois made only one of 31 shots in the first half.
Kentucky had a chance at the record for points allowed in a game during the three-point era. George Washington beat St. Louis 49-20 in 2008.
UCLA managed to avoid that indignity.