The Kentucky Wildcats set a new record by winning their first 36 games in a row after beating the Cincinnati Bearcats 64-51 with a second half surge.
The game started out ugly, with some combination of great defense and bad offense contributing to a 4-4 score as late as the 13:07 mark in the first half. The teams fortunately broke out of that rut and played a back-and-forth game after that. Cincinnati went ahead 13-10, but UK answered to take a 19-16 lead. Syncing battled back to a 24-21 lead, but then a 10- Wildcat run closed out the half with a 31-24 margin in favor of Big Blue.
The Bearcats did their best to stay in this game despite their obvious talent disadvantage, and they got under Kentucky's skin a bit. Octavius Ellis especially did so, and at times it seemed like a brawl could break out at any minute. Things settled down after a pretty ticky-tack technical foul called on Andrew Harrison, and the game resumed in a still physical but less emotionally charged fashion.
Cincinnati had plenty of chances to pull closer, but it just couldn't put the ball in the basket enough. Kentucky's defense had huge role in that, but the Bearcats just had a bad shooting night too. This exchange in the play-by-play is a microcosm of how the night went for UC:
To add insult to injury, the possession immediately following this ended with an Aaron Harrison three pointer. Kentucky would inch its lead out further as each minute went by, slowly strangling the Bearcats' chances of winning like a constrictor.
Aaron Harrison and Cincy's Troy Caupain tied for the game high with 13 points, while Trey Lyles had a double-double with 11 points and 11 boards. UK had nine blocks on the game—including three for Karl-Anthony Towns and two each for Willie Cauley-Stein and Lyles—but it felt like double that while watching the game. Ellis finished with nine points and ten boards for the Bearcats.
For too long in this game, it seemed like Cincinnati was pulling Kentucky into its own style of play and away from what makes the Wildcats so good. The problem was that Cincy was too poor of a shooting team today to take full advantage. The Bearcats made just 20/63 from the floor, including 2/14 from downtown. Again, Kentucky's defense was a major part of that, but Cincinnati had nowhere near the needed offensive skill to pull this one out.
Kentucky has become the first team ever to start a season 36-0, and that record will extend with each subsequent win the team gets from here. The Wildcats' next opponent is the winner of tomorrow's Maryland-West Virginia game.