CLEVELAND – Perfect and pulverizing. Kentucky made West Virginia's press look pathetic.
Trey Lyles scored 14 points, Andrew Harrison added 13 and the unbeaten Wildcats, chasing history and a ninth national title, rolled to a 78-39 victory over the Mountaineers on Thursday night in the Midwest Region semifinals of the NCAA tournament.
The overall top seed and an overwhelming favorite to cut down the nets next month in Indianapolis, Kentucky (37-0) advanced to Saturday's region final to play third-seeded Notre Dame, an 81-70 winner over Wichita State in the other semifinal.
The Fighting Irish may need to call Rudy, consult with Digger Phelps and wake up the echoes from some of those stunning upsets in football and hoops they have pulled off in the past.
Kentucky is a monster this March.
With stunning ease, the Wildcats built a 26-point lead in the first half over the Mountaineers (25-10), who led the nation in steals and figured their full-court press would at least bother Kentucky into some turnovers. Not only did the press not work, West Virginia shot only 24.1 percent (13 of 54), including two of 15 from three-point range, against the Wildcats, who resemble a forest of blue-tinted redwoods inside the paint.
West Virginia had hoped to score a historic upset — at least guard Daxter Miles Jr. predicted so on Wednesday, and while he gained short-lived national exposure, he rankled Kentucky players and fans. For a team that had lost three of its previous six games coming into this encounter with the best team in the country, it came across as an almost preposterous boast.
"A lot of teams say things," Wildcats freshman guard Devin Booker told reporters Wednesday. "But eventually you have to step in the ring."
West Virginia didn't eclipse 20 points until the 11:41 mark of the second half.
It was over long before then. At halftime, the Mountaineers had nearly as many fouls (14) as points (18) and there was no hint they would be able to cut into Kentucky's lead. The Wildcats, seeking to become the first team to go undefeated since Indiana in 1976, seemed to be sending a message to the rest of the tournament that everyone else is playing for second place.
Aaron Harrison scored 12 points in the first half, Devin Booker dropped two three-pointers and Marcus Lee and Willie Cauley-Stein took turns soaring to convert alley-oop passes into dunks that had West Virginia fans longing to take the country road back home.
Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins could only sit on his sideline stool and shrug. His good friend John Calipari has quite a team.
Dakari Johnson scored 12 points and Cauley-Stein added 10 rebounds for Kentucky, which hasn't faced Notre Dame in the tournament since 1970.
Juwan Staten scored 14 points to lead West Virginia.
Notre Dame 81, Wichita State 70: Momentum sagging and Wichita State surging, Mike Brey called a timeout and offered his Notre Dame players a reminder.
There was no screaming. No frantic scribbling of Xs-and-Os. That's not Brey's style. Or his team's, either.
"I said 'Fellas, been here before,' " Brey said. "Little did I know it was going to be a lightning strike, a flat-out lightning strike."
One that carried the Irish all the way to the brink of the Final Four.
Demetrius Jackson scored 20 points and third-seeded Notre Dame blitzed the Shockers in the second half of a surprisingly easy victory to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in 36 years.
The Irish (32-5) shot 75 percent (18 of 24) over the final 20 minutes, overwhelming the seventh-seeded Shockers (30-5).