Last night, it was Mount St. Mary's turn to absorb the blows.
In their first appearance in the Division I tournament, the 16th-seeded Mountaineers were no match for the nation's second-ranked team as Kentucky romped to a 113-67 victory in a first-round Southeast Regional game at the Pyramid.
"It was what I was afraid of," said Mount coach Jim Phelan. "They have a dozen or so thoroughbreds who've all been to stakes races, and we haven't been participating in stakes. Basically, it was a step up in class."
Top-seeded Kentucky (26-4) romped over Rider two years ago, 96-52, in Nashville, Tenn., in the first round, and one of the Mount's goals was to improve on that performance.
It didn't turn out that way. The Mountaineers hung in for about 10 minutes before Kentucky's size, depth and talent wore them down.
"[The Mount] was outmanned at every position," said Wildcats coach Rick Pitino. "To play against us that way for a half and not turn the ball over is a tribute to their coaching."
Kentucky's all-out pressure wasn't the overwhelming factor. Mount guards Chris McGuthrie and Riley Inge did a good job of breaking through the full-court defense, but at the other end the Mount had difficulty converting with baskets.
Mount St. Mary's (17-13) finished with 15 turnovers, two more than the Wildcats, but had trouble getting the ball to go down, shooting 33 percent in each half.
"After the first five minutes we felt we could hang in with them," said McGuthrie, whose 20 points paced the Mount. "But they just keep coming at you with a new five, and over a period of time they just wore us down."
It didn't help that super sub Michael Watson was in foul trouble all night and finished with five points or that 7-footer Randy Edney often was surrounded by more athletic players and couldn't hold his own inside.
"They made us play a little bit faster than we wanted. We wanted to attack their press," said McGuthrie. "They didn't get many turnovers, but we didn't finish what we were trying to get done."
With 15 points, eight assists and a team-high eight rebounds, Inge had a fine all-around game, but Phelan simply didn't have the troops to contend with the athletic ability and size of Kentucky's forwards and centers.
"We handled the press for a few minutes, but Kentucky is relentless," said Phelan. "The rebounding was 22-20 at halftime, but that was deceptive because Kentucky wasn't missing many and putting back in what they did miss. They were getting whatever they wanted."
From a 5-2 deficit, the Wildcats scored 13 straight points to take control in their ninth straight victory. Kentucky's last loss was to Mississippi State on Feb. 14.
By the half, forward Walter McCarty had 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting, the Wildcats were ahead by 23 after shooting 62.2 percent and it became a simple question of how high the final margin would be.
Kentucky finished with 33 assists, 12 more than the Mount had field goals.
Guard Tony Delk led a parade of 12 Wildcats in the scoring column with 20 points and Jared Prickett came off the bench to score 16.
"The fact is, they [Mount players] were kind of star-struck by this whole thing," said Phelan. "This is one of my shining moments in a long career. I hope it's one of their shining moments in a short career."
Kentucky goes on to meet Tulane, a 76-70 winner over Brigham Young, in an effort to reach the Sweet 16. Mount St. Mary's goes home to Emmitsburg, richer for the experience.
"This is what it's all about," said Inge. "We got a feel for what it's like and now we can go home and learn to do a better job when get back here."
Phelan applauded Pitino as a class guy who "played everybody and pulled the pressure off. You just can't tell your team to stop playing.
"How do you prepare?" added Phelan. "You can't tell your team (( they're too fast, too big and too good. You've got to look for weaknesses and try to stress that.
"It's just very difficult to stay with a team of this magnitude.