UCLA (31-4) was able to overcome a three point deficit at the half to defeat Cincinnati (30-6), 79-67 and move onto the next round setting up a rematch with Kentucky (31-5), for a Sweet 16 blue blood matchup.
The Bearcats lived up to their reputation as a stellar defensive team, putting the clamps on UCLA’s high octane offense in the first-half, holding the Bruins to shooting 37.5 from the floor, well below their season average of 52.1 percent. The Bruins were well below their season average from beyond the arc, too, hitting on an icy 28.6 percent. UCLA’s season average from beyond the arc is 40.6 percent. The Bruins only scored 30 first-half points.
In contrast, Cincinnati hit on 50 percent of their shots from the field and 66 percent of their threes, but only held a slim, three point lead at the half, 33-30.
The question going into the break was, could the Bearcats hold the Bruins back for 20 more minutes? That question would soon be answered with a resounding no.
During the second stanza, the Bruins played more like the team that has thrilled their fans all season long. UCLA shared the basketball and shot 63.3 percent from the field and 50 percent hitting the three ball.
UCLA played Bruin basketball, running and gunning with relentless offensive pressure. The Bearcats seemed to tire and the Bruins were getting and hitting their open shots. When the Bruins are hitting on all cylinders, they share and take care of the basketball.For the game, UCLA had 21 assists against only three turnovers.
UCLA had five players score in double figures led by Lonzo Ball who scored a game high 18 points. The talented freshman just missed notching a double-double contributing a game high nine assists. Ball also tied for a team high, seven rebounds to go with two steals.
Bryce Alford shook off a slow first-half to score 16 points, 13 of which came in the second-half. He also logged three assists and had a steal. UCLA’s bigs, Thomas Welsh and TJ Leaf, each scored 11 points while coming down with seven boards. Isaac Hamilton added 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal.
The next time the Bruins hit the floor will Friday, in a rematch with Kentucky, who the Bruins beat earlier in the year when the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the nation. The tipoff is scheduled for 6:40PM PST and the game will played in Memphis at the FedEx Forum.
In an interesting sidebar, the Bruins have already played four of the remaining 16 teams in the tournament. Besides Kentucky, the Bruins have played Michigan while playing Arizona three times and Oregon twice. Add in USC, who lost in the second-round of Tournament and all four Bruin losses this came at the hands of NCAA Tournament teams.