When No.3 UCLA (31-4) played No.2 Kentucky (31-5) the first time around last December, it was an indication just what kind of basketball team the Bruins were going to be.
The Bruins entered legendary Rupp Arena rated 11th in the nation by AP and the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 and many in the college basketball world were shocked when the Bruins trumped the Wildcats 97-92snapping Kentucky’s 42 home game winning streak in the bargain.
Now the two legendary programs meet again in the Sweet 16 round of March Madness. Kentucky holds a 7-6 edge in the series between the two teams.
When the two teams met in December, the Bruins showed extreme mental toughness over coming 18 turnovers, well above their average, and still brought home the victory.
Outside of the turnovers, it was the Bruins playing Bruin basketball. Meaning, sharing the ball and hitting open shots. In total, six Bruins scored in double figures.
Isaac Hamilton led the Bruins in scoring with 18 points. TJ Leaf had a double-double scoring 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Leaf also had five assists. Lonzo Ball scored 14 points, dished out seven assists and had six boards. Bryce Alford had 14 points including some clutch free throws down the stretch and Thomas Welsh, who struggled with foul trouble ended up with 14 points and eight boards. Aaron Holiday did what he has done all season, supplying a spark off the bench, scoring 13 points.
The first time around UCLA’s bigs, struggled with foul trouble, both Welsh and Ike Anigbogu fouled out of the contest but the Bruins held off a furious comeback by the Wildcats to secure the victory. Before fouling out, Anigbogu did a lot of things off the bench that don’t show up in the box score, but he ended up scoring six points, had six boards and two blocked shots in 17 minutes of play, due to foul trouble.
UCLA basketball Coach Steve Alford, has led his Bruins to their third Sweet 16 appearance in four years. The Bruins have lost in the prior two, including a game that was played in the same venue UCLA will play Kentucky, the FedExForum (holds 18,119 fans) in Memphis, Tenn., on March 27, 2014.
The Bruins took it on the chin that night as a four seed, against No. 1 seed Florida, 79-68, but that was then and this now.
The Bruins have advanced due to the strong play of freshmen TJ Leaf (17.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Lonzo Ball (16.5 ppg, 6.0 apg, 5.5 rpg). Ball shot 76.5 percent from the field, making 13 of 17 shots (and 6 of 10 attempts from 3-point range). Junior Thomas Welsh averaged 13.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two wins.
Through games played March 19, UCLA continues to lead the nation in scoring (90.2 ppg), overall field goal percentage (52.1%), assists per game (21.6), total assists (755) and assist-turnover ratio (1.93). No UCLA team has ever had an assist-turnover ratio as high as 1.93 or totaled as many as 755 assists in one season.
Tipoff is scheduled for approximately 6:39PM PST and will be televised nationally on CBS with Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, and Bill Raftery, behind the microphones andTracy Wolfson covering court side.
UCLA’s flagship station AM 570 (KLAC) will broadcast the contest with Josh Lewin (play-by-play) and Bruin great Tracy Murray (analyst) performing their usual roles.
Sirius/XM Radio Channels 136/201 and Sirius App, Channel 961 will also broadcast the game on satellite.