|Freshman guard Lonzo Ball and the UCLA men's basketball team hold a narrow halftime lead over No. 1 Kentucky. (Michael Zshornack/Assistant Photo editor)|
No. 11 UCLA leads top-ranked Kentucky 49-45 at halftime
LEXINGTON, Ky. –– Somehow No. 11 UCLA (8-0) is hanging in there.
Freshman point guard Lonzo Ball went 1-of-5 from the field and racked up five turnovers, but the Bruins entered halftime leading the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (7-0) 49-45.
The first true road test for the star point guard was anything but show-stopping.
Kentucky defenders deflected his passes and cut off the once easily-open lanes, leaving the freshman frustrated and the Big Blue nation crowd hyped.
But sophomore Aaron Holiday, who came off the bench, kept the Bruins close after the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run and gained a nine-pointlead with 10 minutes to go in the half.
The guard was the only UCLA player in double digits, tallying 13 points on all four of his first-half field shots.
The Bruins started out of the gates with a 4-0 run, but the long and quick Wildcat defense disrupted their rhythm on nearly every possession.
The visitors hung around late in the half behind timely runs and gritty defensive stops to stem the home team’s momentum. Foul calls against the Wildcats helped the underdogs slowly take control.
Freshmen forward TJ Leaf and forward/center Ike Anigbogu battled against Kentucky in the paint, combining for 10 points and eight rebounds to keep UCLA in the game.
Leaf snared one of his seven rebounds from deep to help the Bruins outrebound the bigger Wildcats 19-18.
The Bruins retook the lead with two minutes to go on a Holiday 3-pointer. And Ball closed the first half with a 3 of his own to give the visitors a four-point cushion heading into halftime.
Last year, UCLA upset Kentucky 87-77 in Westwood, defeating a top-ranked team for the first time since 2003. The Bruins held an eight-point lead at halftime in the 2015 game.
|Freshman TJ Leaf finished with a double-double, 17 points and 13 rebounds against the No. 1 team in the country. The Bruins upset the Wildcats for the second straight year to stay undefeated. (Michael Zshornack/Assistant Photo editor)|
UCLA men’s basketball completes Kentucky upset for second year in a row
This post was updated Dec. 3 at 2:38 p.m.
LEXINGTON, Ky. –– UCLA did it –again.
The No. 11 Bruins (9-0) shocked No. 1 Kentucky (7-1) for the second straight year, this time in Rupp Arena, to win 97-92 behind balanced play from their starters and bench players.
“They manhandled us,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari. “We let them out-battle us. The factor in the game is they played better than us and they played harder than us. They had more fight than we had.”
After slow starts at the Wooden Legacy tournament against Nebraska and Texas A&M, UCLA came out of the gates hot on a 4-0 run, forcing Calipari to call a timeout just a minute into the game.
The Wildcat defense began taking control of the game using bigger and longer players, taking away the Bruins’ easy passes and blocking the path to the basket.
Freshman guard Lonzo Ball, who averages 2.6 turnovers a game, racked up five in first half – on errant passes and mishandled dribbles – to just three assists and three points
The rest of the starters were unable to get into a rhythm with Kentucky on the verge of turning the “Blue Blood” matchup into a blowout.
But down nine with their star freshman scoreless, UCLA didn’t surrender.
“We talked about ‘Don’t go in and jab around the rim and see if you belong,’” said UCLA coach Steve Alford. “‘You’re 8-0. You’re playing well. Trust that you belong.’ And that was key tonight.”
Sophomore guard Aaron Holiday came off the bench to lead all scorers at the end of the first half with 13 points, nailing all four of his field goal attempts.
The Bruins continued to chip away at the lead, before Holiday’s 3-pointer gave the visitors a three-point lead with minutes to go before halftime.
UCLA came out of the locker room firing, opening up a 13-point lead with freshmen forwards TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu, junior center Thomas Welsh and senior guard Isaac Hamilton adding buckets.
Six different Bruins finished in double digits, led by Hamilton’s 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, but foul trouble kept the Wildcats within striking distance throughout the second half.
Holiday, Welsh and Anigbogu, who later fouled out, each picked up four fouls before the 10-minute mark and headed to the bench, forcing Alford to send in GG Goloman.
The junior forward combined with Leaf to anchor the paint, totaling 11 rebounds and 11 points, but the Bruins turned to their guard play to protect the lead.
Ball quieted the raucous Rupp Arena crowd multiple times with a dunk and then stealing the ball to hit the 3-point shot moments later to snatch the momentum away from the Wildcats.
“At the end of the day whoever has the most runs win,” Ball said. “This was just finding a way to to win and that’s not all me. That’s my teammates too.”
The freshman had just one turnover in the second half while scoring 14 points and tallying seven assists.
A Hamilton 3-pointer pushed the lead to 10 for the Bruins, whose largest lead of the game was 13, but the Wildcats never conceded.
Back and forth it went, with neither team seizing momentum for very long. Behind their full court pressure, Kentucky cut the lead down to three with under 10 seconds remaining, but never got any closer as the visitors hung on for the upset.
Senior guard Bryce Alford sunk two free-throws in the waning seconds to seal the game – and the upset – in front of a stunned, shocked and silent Kentucky crowd.
UCLA’s win ends Kentucky’s 42-straight win streak at Rupp Arena, dating back to February 2014 when they lost to Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas. The Bruins continue their undefeated start and will face Michigan on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
No. 11 Bruin basketball outperforms No. 1 Wildcats on both sides of court
John Calipari looked on in disbelief.
UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball had just snatched the ball away from Kentucky’s Malik Monk before driving to the basket for an easy dunk.
Seconds later, the freshman nailed a 3-pointer off of freshman forward TJ Leaf’s assist to push the Bruins’ lead back up to nine with a little under five minutes to play.
“We had our chance down seven, turnover, dunk, give up a 3, all within 13 seconds,” Kentucky coach Calipari said. “They just played to their strengths. It’s all discipline.”
Those 13 seconds highlighted the key to No. 11 UCLA’s second straight upset of No. 1 Kentucky – filling up the stat sheet with assists and efficient shooting while putting together key defensive stops to fuel its transition game.
The Bruins took 14 fewer shots than the Wildcats – 80 to 66 – but finished with a better field goal percentage of 53 percent to 41.3 percent.
Players were able to get the open jumper or shot in the paint with their ball movement, passing the ball around the perimeter before working it inside to throw off defenders.
Not only did six different players score in double figures, but five of them also had one or more assists.
“We came in a high-scoring team that shared the ball and put six guys in double figures,” said coach Steve Alford. “We probably had too many turnovers tonight. But that’s a credit to Kentucky’s defense. I think our guys will learn from that. We had some silly turnovers that hurt us as well.”
UCLA finished with 18 assists on 35 baskets but also had 18 turnovers against a disruptive Kentucky defense powered by long and big defenders.
Those turnovers, including five from Ball in the first half, hurt the team and gave the Wildcats extra possessions to pad their lead.
But each time Kentucky threatened to open up a wider margin, a timely 3-pointer would stop the momentum or defensive stop would halt their momentum.
The Bruins finished 10-of-23 from behind the arc, with five different players hitting wide-open long-range shot after the Wildcats blew their defensive assignments.
“I’m guessing six of them we left a shooter,” Calipari said. “All we talked about for two days is the one way they’re going to beat us is bouncing it, they’re not beating us shooting standing 3s.”
The Bruins outshot the Wildcats’ from 3-point range and then, according to senior guard Isaac Hamilton, focused on taking away the transition game to force the home team into difficult jumpers and layups.
Every Kentucky shot close to the basket was contested and UCLA finished with six blocks and 30 defensive rebounds behind rim protectors Leaf, freshman forward/center Ike Anigbogu and junior center Thomas Welsh.
Although Welsh and Anigbogu fouled out, coach Steve Alford was pleased with his team’s overall execution.
“We came in here with a certain identity and we left here with the same identity – we just did it against the No. 1 team in the county,” Alford said.
Kentucky, a team grounded in its defense, couldn’t stick to the game plan.
UCLA, a team rooted in its blend of offense and defense, did. And it worked.