LOS ANGELES—UCLA has a freshman phenom, Lonzo Ball, that has been getting a lot of attention lately but, it was Kentucky’s freshman phenom who took over the game and led the No. 2 seeded Wildcats to a 85-76 victory. Star freshman guard De’Aaron Fox scored 39 points, the most in any college game since Tayshaun Prince scored 41 in 2002, helping advance his team to the Elite 8.
After the loss, Lonzo Ball announced that this would be his final game as a UCLA Bruin. In his final game with the Bruins, he delivered had a sub par shooting night, scoring only 10 points on 4-10 shooting. However, Ball, who led the NCAA in assists this year, did chip in 9 assists, but it was not enough to overcome Fox and the rest of his teammates great performance.
The first half was everything people expected this game to be, fast paced, heavily contested, with numerous lead changes. Both teams were playing exciting offense. Bruins big men TJ Leaf and Tom Welsh were getting easy dunks and layups inside. UCLA entered halftime only down three, but in the second half Kentucky began to pull away after capitalizing on Bruin turnovers which gave the Wildcats a 14-2 lead in points off turnovers. Fox continued his scoring outburst in the second half and after a late 12-4 run, the Bruins found themselves down and out. Out of the tournament that is.
UCLA, who led the NCAA in scoring with 90.2 points per game, won the last match up against Kentucky in December, 97-92. This time around Kentucky’s defense clamped down and held college basketballs highest scoring team to a modest 75 points.
For UCLA this marks the end of a promising season. With Lonzo Ball they improved from (15-17) a year ago to (31-5) this year. With their star guard and senior Isaac Hamilton leaving, the prospect of UCLA returning next year with as potent an offense is unlikely. The Wildcats, NCAA’s winningest program will move on to face another titan of college basketball. This Sunday they will take on the one seeded North Carolina, in the regional final.