The top-seeded, monstrous Kentucky Wildcats got a physical, rough-and-tough conflict from No. 8 seed Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon in Louisville, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Despite Cincy’s hardiness and stubborn play, the Bearcats didn’t have the size, shooting or home-fan advantage to keep it close for 40 minutes.
The Wildcats move on to the Sweet 16 in the East region after their 64-51 win, and with that victory set a new men’s Division I basketball record. For the first time, a team has reached 36-0. Coming into this game, UK tied last year’s 35-0 mark, set by Wichita State.
Kentucky trailed for some of the first half against UC, but a 10-0 run down the stretch — sparked by this ruthless slam from Willie Cauley-Stein — gave UK a 31-24 halftime lead. It would never trail again.
UK had seven players score five points or more, led by Aaron Harrison’s 13. Trey Lyles had a double-double, scoring 11 and snagging 11 boards. Cincinnati’s Octavius Ellis baited Harrison into a technical foul early in the second half, and he became the public enemy among UK fans in the building.
Ellis, who was ejected from Cincy’s win on Thursday against Purdue, finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.
The win is also the 16th straight Kentucky’s had over the Cincinnati program. UC last defeated UK more than 75 years ago, on Dec. 16, 1939.
Kentucky will move on to the regionals in Cleveland and will play the winner of Sunday’s game: No. 4 Maryland vs. No. 5 West Virginia.