UCLA vs Kentucky
When: 9:39 PM ET, Friday, March 24, 2017
Where: FedExForum, Memphis
MEMPHIS – (Special Preview for Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – UCLA knows what it takes to defeat Kentucky, and the third-seeded Bruins try to take down the No. 2 seed Wildcats for the second time this season when they meet in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on Friday at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn. UCLA defeated Kentucky on Dec. 3 in 2015 and again in 2016, each time when the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the coaches’ poll.
The Bruins earned their latest victory against Kentucky much the way they’ve beaten every team on their schedule this season, getting balanced scoring on high-percentage shots from their starting five. UCLA’s five starters scored from 14 to 19 points and Aaron Holiday contributed 13 off the bench in the 97-92 win in December. The Wildcats lean on 6-3 freshmen guards Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, who each had big games in the earlier meeting against the Bruins. Monk, who averages 20 points, scored 24 in December, and Fox, who averages 16.1, scored 20. The key matchup could be between 6-10 freshman forwards Bam Adebayo of Kentucky and T.J. Leaf of UCLA, who logged double-doubles in their earlier matchup.
TV: 9:39 p.m. ET, CBS
ABOUT UCLA (31-4): Bruins freshman point guard Lonzo Ball had one of his most impressive performances of the season in the second round and should be motivated to play well against the freshman backcourt of Kentucky. Ball had 18 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and one turnover in the 79-67 victory Sunday against Cincinnati, shooting 7-for-10 from the floor and 4-for-7 from 3-point range. He had 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the first meeting with the Wildcats, so they have a blueprint of the damage he can inflict.
ABOUT KENTUCKY (31-5): Isaiah Briscoe is the third starting guard for the Wildcats and also has good size at 6-3, and is the best rebounder in the backcourt, posting four double-doubles this season and ranking second on the team at 5.4 rebounds. The Bruins need to decide who to put on Briscoe, and that could be Ball, who has the length at 6-6 to keep him off the glass. That would require UCLA senior guard Bryce Alford to guard Fox or Monk, and he doesn’t have the foot speed to stay in front of either one.
1. UCLA enters the Sweet 16 leading the nation in points per game (90.2), field goal percentage (52.1), assists (21.6) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.93).
2. The last UCLA team to win at least 30 games was the 2007-08 club that finished 35-4 after losing to Memphis in the Final Four.
3. Kentucky reached the Sweet 16 six times in eight seasons under coach John Calipari.