UCLA beat Kentucky on Saturday (Dec. 3), taking down the No. 1 team in the country. The UCLA Bruins came into the game ranked No. 9 in the latest Coaches Poll and No. 11 in the AP Top 25, securing them as underdogs against the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats. UCLA pulled out a 97-92 victory on the road, likely making this a marquee win on their schedule as they work toward an invite to the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
After taking a 49-45 lead into halftime, UCLA controlled the game for most of the second half. Though the score remained relatively close, UCLA stayed on the right side of the scoreboard until the final buzzer. Six players finished in double-figure scoring for UCLA, led by 19 points from Isaac Hamilton and 17 points from TJ Leag. The Bruins would shoot a combined 53 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from three-point range on the day.
On the other end of the floor, tight defense by UCLA held Kentucky to just 41.2 percent shooting from the field. Kentucky remained competitive, though, by grabbing 19 offensive rebounds in the game. It led to many second-chance points and kept the Wildcats from getting completely blown out. Malik Monk led the Wildcats with 24 points, while De’Aaron Fox had 20 and Edrice Adebayo chipped in 18.
Winning this game in Lexington will create a lot of buzz about the UCLA Bruins around the country. The team came into this road game at Rupp Arena as the underdog but may have emerged as one of the schools favored to make another Final Four appearance this year. The Bruins brought an end to a 42-game winning streak that Kentucky had on its own home court and achieved a win that the NCAA Selection Committee will appreciate in March.
The UCLA basketball schedule still has two more tough non-conference games, as the Bruins play the Michigan Wolverines on December 10 and then the Ohio State Buckeyes on December 17. Both games are going to receive national broadcasts, with the game against Michigan on ESPN2 and the Ohio State game on CBS. It is a prime opportunity for UCLA to increase its “stock” even further before the Pac-12 Conference schedule officially begins.
A big takeaway from UCLA’s upset of Kentucky was that Lonzo Ball struggled and the Bruins still found a way to win. The freshman point guard is nearly averaging a double-double on the season, but he had a really rough first half in this game. Ball was just 1-for-5 from the field with five turnovers in the first 20 minutes. Despite those struggles, Kentucky had the lead at the half.
Lonzo Ball is expected to be a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, so a lot of attention has been placed upon him early in the college basketball season. He has not disappointed fans, averaging 14.6 points, 9.3 assists, and five rebounds over his first nine games. Those numbers will likely get better as Ball gets more comfortable running the UCLA offense, making his stock increase as the NBA Draft approaches. This will also help bring more positive attention to an already impressive UCLA team.
The team now has a week off before the December 10 game against Michigan. It’s also a home game, giving the fans something to cheer about before finals week. The first game of the Pac-12 schedule comes against No. 23 Oregon on December 28, with that game taking place on the road. They then play at Oregon State on December 30. In the next college basketball rankings, the UCLA Bruins are likely to move up a few rungs, with a shot at taking a spot in the top 5 after knocking off the No. 1 team in the country.
[Featured Image by Joe Robbins/Getty Images]