March 24, 2017
Looks like Lavar Ball was wrong on this one. UCLA was eliminated by Kentucky on Friday night in Memphis in the Sweet 16, losing by a score of 86-75.
The game belonged to De’Aaron Fox, who scored 39 points on the night. It was the best NCAA scoring performance for Kentucky since Tayshaun Prince had 41 against Tulsa in 2002, and it was the best by a freshman in tournament history. Kentucky wins its 14th straight game, and moves on to play UNC in the Elite 8 on Sunday.
Meanwhile, UCLA was eliminated in the Sweet 16 for the 3rd time in the last 4 years. That’s all too common a problem for Steve Alford, whose teams have never been further in the tournament.
Lonzo Ball, who announced after the game that he played his last game as a Bruin, scored 10 points while dishing out 8 assists, but turned it over 4 times as well.
The first half was not the up and down pace you would have thought from these two squads, and Kentucky took a 36-33 lead at the break.
In the 2nd half, the closest the Bruins would get would be 50-49. The Wildcats pushed their lead to as many 14 in the final minutes.
UCLA shot well from the field but the Bruins turned the ball over 13 times, and Kentucky outscored them 14-2 off the mistakes.
The Bruins are done for the year, but much to the surprise and disappointment of some, Steve Alford announced that he is returning to UCLA and will not be taking the job with his alma matter, Indiana. “I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully that’ll continue,” Alford said.
UCLA has the #2 recruiting class in the country coming in next year, including Lonzo’s younger brother, LiAngelo. Recruiting has always been Alford’s strong suit, but it’s the coaching that’s been more troubling.