March Madness – (8) Cincinnati vs. (1) Kentucky

(8) Cincinnati Bearcats vs. (1) Kentucky Wildcats (-16.5, 118.5 o/u)

The No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (35-0, 18-0 SEC) dominated the No. 16 Hampton Pirates on Thursday, taking an easy 79-56 win. Tonight, the Wildcats will put their undefeated record back on the line when they face the No. 8 Cincinnati Bearcats (23-10, 13-5 American) at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville (2:40 p.m. Eastern).

The Pirates made it interesting early before Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns (21 points and 11 boards) and Andrew Harrison (14 points) took over. Despite the 23-point margin of victory, Wildcats head coach John Calipari found some faults in his team of stars.

“I didn’t like how we started the game,” Calipari said yesterday morning. “I didn’t quite like how we finished the game, but it is 1 o’clock at night. And we had an overtime game where the guys were hanging out in the locker room for an hour and half, so I’m going to chalk it up to that and move on.”

The coach added that the game served as a valid learning experience for his talented freshman, Towns.

“One thing I did tell them in the huddles, you have to respect the fact that we’re throwing you [Towns] the ball every time down,” Calipari said. “And if you get double-teamed, you must pass it because you’ve got to respect the guys that are passing you the ball. So if we do – and Hampton didn’t trap – which is why he had all those baskets.”

Up next for the Wildcats are the No. 8 Bearcats, who needed overtime Thursday to beat Purdue, 66-65. After missing a layup with a minute to go, Cincinnati’s Troy Caupain converted on a similar play at the last second to send the game into overtime.

In Hollywood-fashion, Caupain’s layup seemingly touched every part of the rim before falling.

“Once it was rolling around the rim, I stopped, I bent down a little bit, I looked up, and once it fell in the rim and the buzzer went off, I just smiled,” Caupain said.

In the extra period, Coreontae DeBerry scored four four points for Cincinnati, helping to seal the victory.

The Bearcats’ associate head coach Larry Davis, who had to soldier without head coach Mick Cronin (aneurysm), was all praise for his squad after the game.

“When you’ve got a team full of guys like that who pull for each other, you’ve got a chance,” Bearcats associate head coach Larry Davis said. “You’ve got a chance. I couldn’t be prouder of the group.”

Most followers of the NCAA tournament may blow off the Bearcats. That said, Cincinnati is in excellent position to pull off the upset. If you don’t have the stomach for the moneyline (+1212), then consider the Bearcats and the points (+16.5).

(Photo credit: Campaigner444 at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons.)

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