While No. 1 Kentucky was scoring the first 24 points of the game against UCLA on Saturday, on the CBS broadcast, Verne Lundquist noted, "Kentucky fans are hoping for a shutout." It was unclear whether the comment was made in jest.
There is no mercy rule in college basketball, but if ever it were needed, it was Saturday. When UCLA scored its first points in the 83-44 loss, with about 12 minutes left in the first half, the crowd cheered, even the Kentucky fans. By that point, it was the polite thing to do. Kentucky led, 24-2.
When the game was over, UCLA Coach Steve Alford mentioned John Calipari, Kentucky's coach, "told me it was the best they'd played all year."
Alford considered this. "He might've just been being nice," he said.
Kentucky (12-0) covered the 15.5-point spread before the first media timeout. At halftime, UCLA (8-4) trailed, 41-7. The only question left was whether the Bruins would match the opening 24-point run before the game was over. They would, but not until less than eight minutes remained.
After the game, freshman forward Kevon Looney called the loss embarrassing and mentioned he hoped UCLA would get another shot at Kentucky this season.
Hearing this, Alford laughed.
"Not right now," he said.
The first-half stats read as if the computer malfunctioned. UCLA shot three for 37 — 8%. The Bruins didn't make a jump shot. Two players scored points. As a team, they had more turnovers (eight) and more of their shots blocked (eight) than points (seven). In the shot-clock era, no team has scored fewer points in a half against Kentucky.
The final line was marginally better after UCLA scored 37 points in the second half. Bryce Alford, who led UCLA with 13 points, scored a few baskets in garbage time to avoid UCLA's worst loss ever by nine points.
At times, the game resembled a driveway game between a father and a young son. Kentucky's starting five had a height and strength advantage at all five positions. The Wildcats have nine McDonald's All-Americans and, probably, almost as many future NBA players.
They dominated from the start. The Bruins tried zone, but Kentucky splashed in three-pointers. They switched to man, but Kentucky's athletes blew by defenders. Eventually, they ran out of ways to try to stop the Wildcats.
UCLA has owned the glass this season, but lost the rebounding battle by six.
On defense, Kentucky effectively shut down the paint, forcing the Bruins to weakly circulate the ball outside or force a doomed pass inside. Kentucky finished with 13 blocks.
Steve Alford said he was "frustrated and down," but he expressed a deep admiration for Kentucky. It was hard not to.
"In my 24 years of coaching, this is the best team I've coached against," Alford said.
He added: "They have everything."
UCLA isn't the first team to run into the buzz saw. After Kansas, now ranked No. 10, lost by 32 to Kentucky this season, Kansas Coach Bill Self took a sip of water at his postgame news conference.
"I was hoping that was vodka," Self joked.
The Wildcats have had that effect on opponents. They are undefeated, and observers have wondered whether they can become the first Division I men's team to run the table since Indiana in 1976.
After the game, reporters asked Kentucky's players what it's like to have "removed all hope" against a team. They were asked whether they wanted to limit UCLA to single digits. They were asked whether anyone, anywhere, wants to play them right now.
"I'm pretty sure people are still out there trying to get a game with us, to beat us," freshman guard Tyler Ulis said.
UCLA has to be wondering: Any takers?