Kentucky takes out UCLA
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[March 25, 2017]
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- John Calipari
stood in front of his Kentucky team at halftime Friday night and
made an announcement.
"We're going to play through De'Aaron Fox," he said. "The rest of
you, take a back seat."
Calipari said the Wildcats cheered after those words. When the game
was over, so were their thousands of fans that turned FedEx Forum
into Rupp Arena Southwest.
Saving his best game for the biggest stage, Fox poured in a
career-high 39 points as second-seeded Kentucky avenged a December
loss to third-seeded UCLA with an 86-75 decision in the South
Fox, who sank 13-of-20 field goals and 13-of-15 free throws as the
Bruins couldn't keep him from getting to the bucket, said his
teammates and coaches put him in position to score.
"Since the postseason started, I've been in attack mode," he said.
"I just made shots today."
Backcourt mate Malik Monk added 21 for the Wildcats (32-5), which
will take on top-seeded North Carolina Sunday for a trip to next
weekend's Final Four in Glendale, Ariz. Guard Dominique Hawkins came
off the bench to score 11 points.
But the biggest difference in Kentucky's 97-92 defeat in December
against UCLA and the rematch was on the defensive end. Although the
Bruins canned 52.7 percent of their field-goal tries, including a
scalding 63 percent after halftime, they were held 15 points under
their season average as the Wildcats contained their transition
UCLA (31-5) managed just nine fast-break points, a pittance for a
team that has destroyed opponents all season with NBA-bound Lonzo
Ball leading the break, and also committed 13 turnovers that led to
14 points. In wins over Kent State and Cincinnati, the Bruins
coughed it up a combined nine times.
"Sixteen assists and 13 turnovers isn't characteristic of us," UCLA
coach Steve Alford said. "This was a really tough draw. We knew that
someone really good wasn't going to win this game."
That someone turned out to be the guys from Westwood, who went from
a sub-.500 record to a championship contender with the addition of
Ball, the 6-6 freshman who combines Jason Kidd's passing ability
with a more refined jumper.
But Ball, who announced after the game that he would declare for the
NBA Draft, couldn't quite find the range with his 3-pointer. Ball
was just 1-of-6 from distance and 4-of-10 overall, finishing with 10
points and eight assists.
T.J. Leaf, who could also follow Ball as a one-and-done, and Isaac
Hamilton each tallied 17 points for the Bruins. Bryce Alford added
13, but it wasn't enough for a team whose occasional problems at the
defensive end cropped up at the worst possible time.
[to top of second column]
Kentucky Wildcats guard
De'Aaron Fox (0) drives to the lane against UCLA Bruins guard Bryce
Alford (20) in the first half during the semifinals of the South
Regional of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at FedExForum. Mandatory
Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Fox announced his presence with authority right away,
scoring Kentucky's first eight points. He finished the half with 15
as the Wildcats rallied late to gain a 36-33 edge prior to
"He kept scoring, we gave him the ball," Monk said.
In front of a crowd of 17,532 that included Magic Johnson, the
president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers who
had a front-row seat for this one, Fox continued his bold forays to
the cup. He got early second half help from Monk, who lit it up for
eight quick points inside the first four minutes.
The duo scored at will against a UCLA defense which gave up 49.2
percent field goal shooting, plus 10-of-23 accuracy from the 3-point
line. What's more, Kentucky earned extra possessions in the second
half with a handful of offensive boards that led to 13 second-chance
When Fox drained two foul shots with 5:58 left, the Wildcats earned
their largest lead of the night at 69-58. That was a death sentence
of sorts for the Bruins as Calipari-coached teams at Kentucky
entered the game 213-4 when establishing a 10-point edge.
Thanks largely to Fox, make that 214-4.
"So proud of him," Calipari said of Fox. "He's learned to play
physical. If he's open, the ball is going down. He's learned to play
NOTES: Kentucky's first 3-pointer Friday night extended its
NCAA-record streak of making at least one in 1,012 consecutive
games. ... UCLA entered the game leading Division I in five
offensive categories, including assists, as it averaged a whopping
21.6 per game. ... Bruins C Thomas Welsh played just 18 minutes
before fouling out with 5:58 remaining, finishing with nine points
and seven rebounds.
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