Sunday, 24 December 2017 15:58

Bruins Upend Wildcats, 83-75

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Holiday A UKyThe Bruins needed to play their best if they were to beat the No. 7 nationally ranked Wildcats and they did just that upending Kentucky (9-2), 83-75.

UCLA (9-3) did what they had to do to gain their victory. They shared the basketball on offense, hit their free throws [13-15] and five Bruins scored in double figures. The Bruins also played solid defense and did a good job on the boards. It was the perfect recipe for a win.

“I thought today, we really put it together,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “Our guys have had a lot thrown at them. There were a lot of different man defenses thrown at us, coverages thrown at us, and then some zone. I thought our offense really handled that well.

“I was really pleased with our defense. I thought we did a great job on the backboard. We limited their second [chance] opportunities. We did the same thing at Michigan. These are teams that have really taken pride in their board play, and we’ve done a good job on the backboard. That’s pretty important moving forward.

“So, it’s a great time for our guys to get a couple days off with the break. Hopefully, our guys can travel safely. And the guy to my right [Aaron Holiday] was awfully big down the stretch. He proved what type of quality player that he is. So, just very happy with this performance.”

Aaron Holiday was outstanding and was tied with Kris Wilkes for a game-high in points with 20. For Wilkes, his scoring output tied his career-high. Holiday also a game-high eight assists. Alford was full of praise for his junior point guard.

“He’s unbelievable,” Alford said about Holiday. "I’ve said all along that he’s like a pit bull who is just going to come at you. I’ve loved coaching him. These have been three great years here.

“When Aaron was a freshman, we missed the [NCAA] tournament and he started every game. And then the next year, his sophomore year, we had a great recruiting class and then he doesn’t start. He comes off the bench, and in my mind, there wasn’t a better player off the bench in the nation than Aaron Holiday.

“And his numbers all went up, and now boom here in year three he’s thrust into, ‘Hey you’ve got five new guys who you need to lead.’ The guys from last season are gone. He has just handled it tremendous. It doesn’t matter what you throw at him. He just gives you everything that he’s got. That’s the thing that I appreciate about Aaron.”

It wasn’t just about Holiday, this was a team effort. Thomas Welsh was his consistent self and notched his ninth double-double of the season, scoring 13 points and coming down with a game-high 11 boards. He also had three steals. Jaylen Hands added 14 points off the bench and Prince Ali chipped in 12 points.

UCLA returns home and will open conference play. The Bruins will play Washington State on Friday, Dec. 29 at 8:00 PM PST. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

The Bruins will host the Washington Huskies on Sunday, Dec. 31. Hopefully, UCLA will close out 2017 with a win. Tipoff against UDub is scheduled for 5:00 PM PST.

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