UK Men's Basketball

John Clay: Kentucky kicks (search) engine into overdrive

Kentucky Wildcats guard Aaron Harrison (2) gets around UCLA Bruins forward Kevon Looney (5) to score during the second half at the United Center Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 in Chicago, Ill. Photo by Amy Wallot
Kentucky Wildcats guard Aaron Harrison (2) gets around UCLA Bruins forward Kevon Looney (5) to score during the second half at the United Center Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 in Chicago, Ill. Photo by Amy Wallot Herald-Leader

CHICAGO — At halftime of the second game of the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday, we media types in the press box high above the floor of the United Center were busy Googling.

We were Googling to try to (a) find the last time a major college basketball team had scored as few as seven points in a half, (b) the last time a major college basketball team shot 8 percent or below in a half and (c) any and all synonyms for the phrase "total domination."

With apologies to Kim Kardashian, I think we came one or two Google clicks away from breaking the Internet.

That was the story of Kentucky-UCLA.

Top-ranked Kentucky won 83-44, but the final score doesn't aptly describe the carnage. UK scored the game's first 24 points. That's right, 24. It was 24-0. That was the score. Really, seriously, 24-0.

Less than eight minutes into that first half, UCLA Coach Steve Alford had called his third timeout, and he could have used 30 more. You felt sorry for the guy.

Kentucky led 41-7 at halftime. UCLA didn't hit double digits until the second half, 19:18 of the second half to be exact. (Mock cheers.) And this is UCLA we're talking about. Not vintage UCLA by any means, but it is the legendary program with 11 national championships, more than any other program.

"In my 24 years of coaching basketball," Alford said afterward, "that's the best team I've coached against."

We figure to hear a lot of similar platitudes from now on, because in this Kentucky season we have now entered the world of Bizarro Basketball.

It's one thing to maul a Montana State or a UT-Arlington. It's quite another to beat Kansas by 32 points, to beat UCLA by 39, to beat Texas by 12 and think the Longhorns played the Cats close, to beat North Carolina by 14 and give the Tar Heels credit for a respectable effort.

Let's try this again: Kentucky allowed UCLA seven points in the first half Saturday in the house that Michael Jordan built. What? You've got to be kidding me.

Truth be told, the Bruins were beaten before the first TV timeout. You could just tell. ("They took our confidence," admitted star guard Bryce Alford.) Kentucky was too tall, too athletic, too skilled. Multiply those by "two" platoons.

Steve Alford remarked afterward about how UCLA had three players leave early for the pros and Kentucky had three players who could have gone pro but stayed. "That's not an excuse for 41-7," said Alford, and it's not.

Nor is it anywhere close to the bottom line. It's not that three probable pros came back to the UK campus, it's what they've done since they've returned. They've shared minutes. They've shared the ball. They're sharing what's becoming a ridiculous story.

If this is starting to sound like a John Calipari news conference/radio show, then maybe it's rubbing off. It's certainly hard to argue. There have been plenty of college basketball teams with enormous talent over the years — "Please don't compare us to teams with three Hall of Famers, and I mean Hall of Fame Hall of Fame," Calipari said — but not all those teams have seemed to love the bright lights, big city, big stage as much as this one. Not as individuals, but as a team.

Someone asked Calipari what it was like to coach in a half so ridiculous and Cal said he didn't even look at the score before admitting with something of a grin, "I couldn't find (the scoreboard)."

Meanwhile, we college basketball chroniclers were searching, too. Fewest points in a first half: That would be Northern Illinois with four points in 2013. Lowest shooting percentage in a first half: Again, Northern Illinois at 3.1 percent. Fewest points by a team in the three-point shot era: Saint Louis with 20 against George Washington in 2008.

This means (a) Google is a wonderful thing and (b) even this Kentucky team has something for which to shoot.

"There's still room to get better and that's the scary thing about them," Alford said. "I think as (the win streak) grows, they're going to get hungrier with it."

Here's the really bizarre thing: He wasn't joking.

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