LOUISVILLE — Karl-Anthony Towns remembered to the second when the final television timeout of the first half came Saturday.
"I think 2:44 left," he correctly said.
What made this particular timeout memorable was what was said and not said at the Kentucky bench.
"It was the first huddle Coach Cal just listened to us talk to each other," Towns said. "We came into the huddle really mad with ourselves. ...
"We set a goal. Not one more point the rest of the half, and we did that."
Kentucky shut out Cincinnati the rest of the half (actually, the final 3:42 of the first half) en route to a 64-51 victory that served at least three purposes:
■ Advanced Kentucky to a NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game against either West Virginia or Maryland this coming Thursday in Cleveland.
■ Enabled Kentucky to become the first Division I team to ever achieve a 36-0 record.
■ Prove again that any perceived avenue toward beating this Kentucky team is a dead end.
Coaches who've mused about beating Kentucky this season always mentioned how helpful it would be if Kentucky did not shoot well from the perimeter.
Cincinnati got that help. Kentucky shot its third-worst percentage of the season ... and won.
"Just add it onto the list of things," Willie Cauley-Stein said of UK winning despite making only four three-point shots. "We just seem to overcome everything."
As in the past, UK Coach John Calipari took pleasure in his team finding a way to win without shooting well (37-percent accuracy).
"What they learned today is we don't have to shoot the ball well," Calipari said, "and we can still survive. You just want them going into every game saying, it doesn't matter what happens. We can still win."
Cincinnati, which hadn't beaten UK since 1940, expected to win. "That's not just talk," Associate Coach Larry Davis said. "That's the truth."
To snap a 15-game losing streak against Kentucky, Cincinnati intended to get physical and, as Cauley-Stein put it, "just muck it up."
Kentucky made that task easier by shooting poorly. Devin Booker continued a puzzling slump. He missed all five of his three-point shots, which made him six of 27 from beyond the arc in the last eight games. UK's top three perimeter shoots — Andrew and Aaron Harrison, plus Booker — made three of 14 shots in the first half.
Until the fateful TV timeout with 2:44 left in the first half, Kentucky had led for barely three minutes (3:16 to be exact). Cincinnati had made nearly half its shots (11 of 24) and seemed capable of reducing winning or losing to the game's final few minutes.
"We said we need to get it right now," Booker said. "We always say it starts with stops."
Cincinnati, 23-11, made only nine of 39 shots (23.1 percent) the rest of the game. The Bearcats missed all seven of their shots from three-point range.
In the final 3:42 of the first half, Cincinnati missed five shots and committed two turnovers.
Meanwhile, Kentucky scored the final 10 points of the half. An ill-advised shot by Cincinnati freshman forward Quadri Moore helped change the momentum.
With UK trailing 24-23, Moore took his first three-point shot since Jan. 25. He missed badly, which fueled a UK fast-break culminated by Cauley-Stein's dunk while being fouled.
Kentucky's defense resumed its work after intermission. Cincinnati made only three of its first 16 shots to begin the second half. Kentucky's offense didn't need an explosion of points to take it from there.
Kentucky got some breathing room against Cincinnati mid-way through the second half of a bruising game. Fittingly, some grit was required for UK to take its first double-digit lead with 9:31 left. Dakari Johnson ripped a rebound from Coreontae DeBerry, which began a fast-break that Andrew Harrison finished with a driving layup. That put the Cats ahead 46-35 with 9:31 left.
"I've said it plenty of times, a lot of teams can play us for 30 minutes," Booker said. "But those last 10 minutes, that's when we're at our best."
Shooting accuracy is immaterial.
"We call it winning time," Booker said. "It's time to get stops, and it's time to buckle down, and, you know, just close them out."