Sunday, December 24, 2017

UCLA tops # 7 Kentucky 83-75


NEW ORLEANS – Kris Wilkes and Aaron Holiday each scored 20 points to lead the UCLA men's basketball team to a win over No. 7 Kentucky, 83-75, in the nightcap of the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday afternoon from the Smoothie King Center.

Wilkes tied a career-high in points, while Holiday tallied his fourth 20-point performance of the season. UCLA (9-3) had five players score in double-figures as Jaylen Hands registered 14 points and Prince Ali added 12. Thomas Welsh recorded his eighth double-double of the season with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bruins made a season-high 12 three-pointers and secured their third victory against Kentucky in four seasons. Since losing to the Wildcats in Dec. 2014 in Chicago, UCLA has gone 3-1 against Kentucky with victories in Pauley Pavilion (Dec. 2015) and Rupp Arena (Dec. 2016) and on Saturday in New Orleans.

"I was really pleased with our defense," UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. "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. It's a great time for our guys to get a couple days off with the break."

Holiday scored eight of the Bruins' final 12 points over the game's last 2:30. The Bruins' floor general hit a layup with 33 seconds left to push UCLA's margin to 79-73 before sinking two free throws with 20 seconds to go, pushing the Bruins' cushion to 81-73.

"He's unbelievable," Alford said of 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."

Kentucky (9-2) was led by Hamidou Diallo's 18 points. The Wildcats also received 16 points from Wenyen Gabriel (who nailed three three-pointers) and 15 points from Kevin Knox.

UCLA raced to an 11-point advantage to begin the second half as Ali hit a pair of shots from behind the 3-point line. Ali's second three-pointer came just 2:13 into the period, putting UCLA ahead by a 50-39 margin. Kentucky responded with a run of its own, tying the contest at 52-52 with 14:36 to go in regulation. Knox scored eight of his 15 points over a three-minute stretch in the second half.

The Bruins grabbed the lead and once again took a double-digit advantage over the Wildcats, thanks to a 8-0 scoring run led by back-to-back 3-pointers from Welsh and Hands. Those triples were followed by a fast-break layup by Hands, giving UCLA a 71-59 advantage with 7:33 on the clock.

Kentucky never got closer than four points through the remainder of the game. A difficult layup by Holiday made it a six-point margin with 33 seconds to play. Clutch free throws from both Holiday and Hands sealed the victory.

UCLA and Kentucky were tied at halftime, 39-39, after the Bruins had concluded the first half on a 13-5 scoring run. Wilkes started that scoring run with a 3-pointer with just over four minutes remaining in the half followed later by Welsh hitting a shot from behind the arc to force a Kentucky timeout at the 2:17 mark. Wilkes scored the final five points of the first half, knotting the game at 39-39.

The Bruins jumped out to a 15-11 lead to begin the game thanks to an 8-0 run. UCLA scored six points in the paint and Wilkes hit a sideline jumper. The Wildcats battled back and led by as many as eight points in the half after going on a 13-0 run, capped by a Nick Richards jumper with 4:32 to play in the opening half.

UCLA shot 48 percent (29-for-61) from the floor and made 48 percent (12-for-30) of its 3-point shots. Kentucky was limited to just 43 percent shooting from the field (29-for-68) and shot 29 percent (6-for-21) from beyond the three-point arc.

UCLA won the rebounding battle against Kentucky, 37-36, and posted a 26-20 advantage on the defensive glass.

The Bruins return home to open Pac-12 play against Washington State on Friday, Dec. 29 (8 p.m., PT) and will close the 2017 calendar year with a New Year's Eve game against Washington on Sunday, Dec. 31 (5 p.m., PT).

UCLA's game on Friday, Dec. 29 will be nationally televised by ESPN2 with Roxy Bernstein and Bill Walton calling the action live in Pauley Pavilion.

The Box 

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