Ball bounces out of UCLA to NBA; Alford stays on as coach

Posted April 01, 2017

Kentucky guard De'Aaron Fox grabs the ball as UCLA guard Lonzo Ball and Kentucky guard Malik Monk look on in the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament South Regional semifinal game Friday, March 24, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn.

Florida is in the Elite Eight for the first time since 2014, and for the first time under White - the former MS guard who was on the losing end of one of the most famous game-winning shots in NCAA history. Now the NCAA's winningest program will play another of basketball's titans Sunday in top-seeded North Carolina, a 92-80 victor over Butler earlier Friday, with a trip to yet another Final Four on the line.

The league best known for winning national titles in football has the most teams still alive and playing for a trip to the Final Four.

That's a stunning thing to type about a John Calipari-coached Kentucky point guard, but it's true, relatively speaking.

In December, the Bruins put the rest of the college basketball world on notice with a 97-92 win against Kentucky in Rupp Arena.

"It didn't matter if it was Aaron Holiday (the defender who gets screened by Bam up above) or Lonzo Ball himself, UCLA couldn't defend the pick-and-roll at all on Friday night and when you have a 6'10", 260-pound screener, it makes life hard for big men when their guards are getting wiped out of plays. That wasn't a problem with Kentucky fans.

In the head-to-head matchup with UCLA's Lonzo Ball, who many believe could be the No. 1 pick in this year's NBA Draft, Fox won decisively. Ball handed out eight assists but also had four turnovers.

T.J. Leaf and Isaac Hamilton each scored 17 points to lead UCLA (31-5).

On the season, UCLA basketball is averaging 90.4 points 39.2 rebounds and 21.5 assists per game.

Fox scored Kentucky's first eight points and led all scorers with 15 in the first half.

Monk also caught fire in the second half, scoring 14 after the break to finish with 21.

As he has throughout the tournament, Calipari tightened his bench, essential relying on his starters - Fox, Bam Adebayo, Isaiah Briscoe, Malik Monk and Derek Willis - plus Dominique Hawkins. The 19-year-old is widely projected to be the second player drafted overall. He hit four of his first five shots, including a pair of 3s, within the first five minutes of the second. He scored the first points of the game on a jumper in the first 20 seconds, and he never slowed down.

Thomas Welsh hit a short jumper, then Bryce Alford hit a three-pointer to pull UCLA within 50-49. "But why would you want to play an easy game in the Sweet 16". Fox would score 24 more points in the second half, bringing his total to 39, a new career high, and the fourth most point total for any United Kingdom player in NCAA tournament history. The last lead change came on two free throws by Thornwell with 2:24 left that made it 65-63. Yes, Alford finished with 13 points, but he labored from distance, making only three of nine.

Zak Showalter just hit an off-balance three-pointer off his right foot for Wisconsin, tying the game at 72-all with 2.5 seconds left to cap a late comeback and force the overtime.

The SEC now is 10-2 with an 83.3 percent winning percentage that is the best so far of any league in this tournament, a number that will change Sunday with SC and Florida facing off for a berth in the Final Four at Madison Square Garden.

Instead, as a clear sign of Kentucky's growth as a team late in the season, Fox wanted to talk about his coach's favorite subject.

Meanwhile, Ball finished with just 10 points and three rebounds. The Tar Heels connected on 54.4 percent of their shots, while Butler was at 43.5 percent.

Ball declared his intentions to enter the 2017 NBA Draft after last night's 86-75 loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Kentucky will play North Carolina here on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. Defensively, UCLA is yielding 75.3 points per game against the opposing teams.

Chrabascz led the Bulldogs with 11 points.