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Miles creates buzz by flipping script, predicts Kentucky ‘gonna be 36-1’

West Virginia freshman guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) says Kentucky wlil be 36-1 after Thursday night’s game.


CLEVELAND, Ohio — Having mind-noogie’d Dez Wells into a turnover tantrum, Daxter Miles took aim Wednesday at reversing the psychology on No. 1 Kentucky.

The West Virginia freshman, not caring one Lexington lick that his team is a 13-point underdog, perked up the ears of national media by giving a locker room lecture on brashness. It seems that Thursday night’s Sweet 16 showdown doesn’t have Miles worried about the unbeaten Wildcats’ string of dominance.

They should be more intimidated, because they’re the ones who have the high standard, and we’re coming for them,” Miles said.

While West Virginia (25-9) handled 12th-seeded Buffalo and fourth-seeded Maryland to reach this intersection, Kentucky (36-0) toyed with Hampton and emerged from a scrap against eighth-seeded Cincinnati, keeping alive the pursuit of wire-to-wire perfection not realized in men’s basketball since the bicentennial.

With so much focus on the Wildcats chasing history, Miles gave the Wildcats an upset warning.

“Salute them to getting to 36-0,” he said, “but tomorrow they’re gonna be 36-1.”

A starter throughout the season, Miles emerged across the last seven games, averaging 13.4 points and shooting 47 percent from 3-point range. Defensively, he’s one of seven Mountaineers with 30-plus steals and figures the full-court press can disrupt Kentucky.

“To me, they don’t play as hard as we play,” he said. “Nobody’s invincible. Your time’s going to come.”

The Kentucky responses ranged from bring-it-on to shrug-it-off. Point guard Andrew Harrison, upon hearing Miles’ assertion that the Wildcats typically don’t match WVU’s effort, answered “next question.”

Wildcats center Willie Cauley-Stein wasn’t as dismissive.

“Now I’m kind of juiced,” he said. “This game is going to be really fun. They made it kind of personal now. It’s just going to be one of them games that I’m telling you, if you want to watch a good game, you’re going to want to watch this game because dudes is lit. Dudes is really ready to play.”

Then Cauley-Stein referenced Kentucky routing Kansas by 32 points and UCLA by 39 during the nonconference schedule.

“We don’t play hard?” he said. “I mean, if you’re playing against teams like UCLA, Kansas, that are good teams and you’re able to do what we did to them without playing hard, imagine what we do playing hard. That’s kind of my mentality.”

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