Kentucky (32-4) showed up in all its relentless end-to-end, trey-burying fury. Authorities are investigating to determine whether UCLA (24-9) showed up at all.
For Kentucky - which has won three straight games in the NCAA tournament by a total of 68 points - it meant a berth in the South Regional final tomorrow for what ought to be a true classic, against Duke, an 80-67 winner last night over Syracuse.
For UCLA, it took two hoops in the last 11 seconds to avert the worst NCAA loss in its mostly glorious 106-game tournament history - a point short of a 27-point loss to Indiana in the 1992 Midwest Regional final.
In fairness to the Bruins, they were without explosive freshman point guard Baron Davis, who tore knee ligaments Sunday against Michigan. On the other hand, they were also without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, and the entire O'Bannon family. Not that it might have mattered.
This one was over faster than you could say, ``Wizard of Westwood.'' It was 11-2 after 2 1/2 minutes. It was 20-5 after seven minutes. UCLA never got closer than seven points again. It was never even closer than 20 points for the final 15 1/2 minutes.
UCLA shot 29.1 percent from the floor, turned the ball over 19 times (14 in the first half), and had 14 shots blocked. The Bruins' best player, Toby Bailey, missed his first nine shots and didn't score from the field for the first 25 minutes, 28 seconds.
Kentucky, meanwhile, hauled out its standard full-court pressure, shot 42.9 percent (6 for 14) from Three-Point Land, and tossed in shots of all shapes, sizes and degrees of difficulty.
``We practice all those in individual instruction,'' deadpanned junior forward Scott Padgett, who nailed 6 of 8 from the field for a game-high 19 points. ``Oh, it was just one of those things. We just got on a roll, and when you get on a roll like that, everything you put up goes in.''
When CBS is bailing out on a Kentucky-UCLA game to show Rhode Island and Valparaiso, you know something has gone radically askew. But almost anybody that runs into Kentucky these days finds itself going radically askew.
``We're very confident right now,'' said senior guard Jeff Sheppard, one of five Kentucky players in double figures last night. ``We feel like we're playing our best basketball we've played all year, but we can still be a better team. That's the best thing about this team. We get better every time we go out on the court.''
Hmmmm. Is that possible? If they get much better than they were last night, we might as well cancel the rest of the tournament - because it's going to look like a '97 Phillies game.
Kentucky now has won 10 straight games - by an average of 21 points. In its last six games - in the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments - its average margin of victory has been 22.
No team in this tournament is hotter than Kentucky, and the amazing thing about that is that this is not even a No. 1 seed. But while the draw sheet may show it's a No. 2, the scoreboard says something otherwise.
``At this point in the season, it doesn't matter to us,'' Sheppard said. ``Every team still playing now is a great team. We didn't care. We've been a No. 1 seed before, and we've been a No. 2 seed before. But the No. 1 thing in this tournament is winning games.''
Kentucky's win sets up its first meeting with Duke since the fabled Christian Laettner game in the 1992 East Regional final. Kentucky lost that one. Its fans have been waiting for the rematch ever since.
``I guess we haven't played since the game in Philadelphia in '92,'' Sheppard said, ``so they probably are. But it's two different teams, and a lot of time has gone by since the last game. But they have a great team, a great coaching staff and a great tradition, and so do we. So it should be a fun game to play in and a fun game to watch.''
More fun than this one, anyhow.