Elite 8-bound: Kentucky beats UCLA 86-75 in South semifinal

  • Elite 8-bound: Kentucky beats UCLA 86-75 in South semifinal

Elite 8-bound: Kentucky beats UCLA 86-75 in South semifinal

Headlines from Hazard to Hollywood will celebrate the dazzling play of De'Aaron Fox, the freshman point guard who scored 39 for the Wildcats.

"Yeah, I take it personally", Fox said, "anytime you're playing someone like Ball".

"Today, we really picked it up defensively", he said. Not because of our scoring. UCLA power forward TJ Leaf deserves bold print in the Kentucky game plan after going for 17 points, 13 rebounds and five assists in the first meeting this season. Alford is averaging 15.6 points and 2.6 assists per game. "You can have 40 points and Lonzo can have two points and make the game-winner, and I'm going with him". Put it all together, and there will likely be at least six future NBA players on the court in Memphis on Friday night, making it a must-watch game if you're interested in the future of the Association.

"It helps both teams that we play because we'll know each other pretty well", Calipari said. His efforts were enough to land him on the list of the top four candidates for the Naismith and AP player of the year awards.

T.J. Leaf and Isaac Hamilton each scored 17 points to lead UCLA (31-5). The Bruins' star freshman finished with 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting from the field and committed four of his team's 13 turnovers.

As a team, UCLA shot 52.7-percent from the field, but was unable to outscore the Wildcats. "We learned that we had to do a better job of coaching defense, and we had to get them to understand transition defense better, playing elbows and blocks better, taking more pride in defense", Calipari said.

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.

But there was more to this victory than the two freshman guards. Like, dude, you can't miss every single shot.

The lightning-quick tempo continued in the second half, but Kentucky gradually pulled away thanks, in large part, to the separation in play between Fox and Ball over the course of those final 20 minutes.

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.

Remember UCLA beat Kentucky, 97-92, on the first Saturday in December at Rupp Arena.

"Very hard guarding those two", Ball said of Fox and Monk. What's more, Kentucky earned extra possessions in the second half with a handful of offensive boards that led to 13 second-chance points.

Kentucky scored 50 points on 51.6 percent shooting from the floor and 45.5 percent from 3s in the second half. Calipari, who has led Kentucky to the Sweet Sixteen in six of his eight seasons at Kentucky, improved to a ideal 6-0 in regional semifinal games. Plus, Calipari is a Sweet 16 regular with Kentucky in the regionals for the seventh time in nine seasons. He was held to 10 points, eight assists with four turnovers in an 86-75 loss to Kentucky. He's the best passer in college basketball and sees plays before they develop.