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Ashley Scoby: Top-ranked Wildcats feed their 'hunger' for dominance in rout of UCLA

Kentucky held UCLA to just seven points in the first half and rolled to an easy win over the Bruins in the second game of the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago (UK Athletics Photo)

Kentucky held UCLA to just seven points in the first half and rolled to an easy win over the Bruins in the second game of the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago (UK Athletics Photo)


The thing about hunger is that it builds upon itself.

When you haven’t eaten all day, then get a bite of something delicious, it’s never enough. A few bites later, you’re still not satisfied. It gets to the point where if something is good enough, you want your stomach to expand just so you can eat more. Hunger builds on its own satisfaction.

It appears that that is where we’re at with this year’s Kentucky basketball team.

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The Wildcats demolished UCLA in Saturday’s CBS Sports Classic, 83-44, after leading the Bruins 41-7 at halftime. They started the game on a 24-0 run, and UCLA didn’t score its first points until 12:17 remained in the first half. The seven points the Bruins managed in the first half were the lowest total points scored by a Kentucky opponent in one half since 1943.

UCLA shot eight percent from the field in the first half (3-37). Two Kentucky players (Aaron Harrison with 11 and Devin Booker with 10) had first-half point totals higher than UCLA’s touchdown of a score. Booker converted five of six from long range and led the Cats wit 19 points while Harrison was the only other UK player in double digits with 15.

Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford – one of two of UCLA coach Steve Alford’s sons who saw action in the game – combined for 27 of the Bruins’ 44 points. Alford, who came into the contest leading UCLA with an 18-point per game average, was held to 13 Saturday.


The numbers could go on and on, but they all paint the same picture: This Kentucky team wants blood more than any other John Calipari team that has been in Lexington. It’s not just talent that is yielding these results; it’s hunger.

When this season first began – with a 116-68 dismantling of Pikeville in the first exhibition game – Willie Cauley-Stein said something that has rung true for every game since.

“Definitely hungry … We’re trying to kill people this year,” he said after that Pikeville game in November. “We’re trying to put it on everybody every time we step on the court.”

It’s easy enough to say something like that. It’s quite another to actually do it.

The first hint Kentucky dropped about its level of hunger came against a nationally-ranked Kansas team in a primetime game midway through November. The Wildcats blitzed KU from the beginning and embarrassed the Jayhawks, 72-40. Then came Texas – another top 10 opponent that fell by double-digits to Kentucky.

A ranked North Carolina team? Also not a problem, as UK took the Tar Heels down, 84-70. And that’s not to even mention all the non-ranked teams that fell by 30- and 40-point margins to the now-unanimous No. 1 team in the country.

The thing about this Kentucky team’s hunger, of course, is that it builds upon itself.

It’s not enough that UK beat UCLA. This team wanted to clobber the Bruins mercilessly, embarrassing them on national television.

It wasn’t enough to see UCLA only having scored two points in the first eight minutes of the game. Kentucky wanted to hold the Bruins to a near-record low.

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Time and time again this year, the UK players have said that they are taking defense “personally,” and they’re walking the talk.

Each point scored by an opponent is seemingly a dishonor to those UK players, the university they play for and all their families. At least that’s what it feels like watching this team play defense, as Kentucky is holding opponents to 30 percent shooting this year. Ten of its 12 opponents have scored fewer than 55 points against Kentucky. Seven of 12 have been held to less than 25-percent field goal shooting.

And all 12 opponents have contributed to one of – if not the – most impressive start in school history for the Wildcats. This year’s Kentucky team is the first one in school history to beat its first 12 opponents by double digits.

That’s not just talent that creates those kinds of numbers. It’s hunger – the kind that only increases with satisfaction.

Ashley Scoby is a senior journalism major at the University of Kentucky. She has reported on the Wildcats for wildcathoops.com, vaughtsviews.com andkysportsreport.com as well as for newspapers in Danville and Glasgow.

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