Louisville, KY (SportsNetwork.com) - Thirty-five down, five to go.
The top-seeded and top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats continued their quest for perfection Thursday with a 79-56 drubbing of underdog Hampton in a second- round matchup in the Midwest Region.
Kentucky (35-0) will play eighth-seeded Cincinnati on Saturday. The Bearcats needed overtime to knock off Purdue in the night-session opener at KFC Yum! Center, and the late start appeared to affect the Wildcats early on.
The heavy favorites were only ahead by four with just over eight minutes to play in the opening half before a 14-0 run provided some energy in what, to that point, was a quiet pro-Kentucky crowd.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored eight points during the surge and wound up with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Andrew Harrison chipped in with 14 points, while Tyler Ulis and Trey Lyles added 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the rout.
"I didn't like how we started the game," Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. "We had an overtime game where the guys were hanging out for an hour and a half. So I'm going to chalk it up to that and move on."
Quinton Chievous carried 16th-seeded Hampton (17-18) with 22 points and 10 boards, but it was not nearly enough.
The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions knocked off Manhattan in a 'First Four' game on Tuesday and actually held a 4-3 lead over the top-ranked team in the country.
"We competed great against the No. 1 team in the country," Chievous said.
The lead lasted all of 29 seconds, and despite a valiant effort, Kentucky's size and athleticism proved too much for the Pirates to overcome.
After a slow start, the aforementioned run gave the Wildcats some breathing room, and they went ahead by 22 on Harrison's 3-pointer late in the opening half.
The Pirates trailed 41-22 at the break and went down as many as 35 with just under 13 minutes to play.
Hampton is 2-5 all-time in the tournament, compared to Kentucky's storied record of 119-48 ... Hampton shot 28.8 percent from the field ... Kentucky owned a 51-31 rebounding advantage and a 44-24 edge in the paint.