So far this season, the UCLA basketball team could be described as mediocre at best.
Tonight, against Kentucky, the Bruins played like, well, the UCLA Bruins.
After Kentucky scored first to make it 2-0, Bruin fans may have very well feared that this game could go the same way as last year's game against the Wildcats in Chicago. But, then Thomas Welsh dunked to tie the game and Tony Parker made it 4-2 Bruins with a layup with 18:20 to go.
And the Bruins never looked back.
A Welsh jumper and a Bryce Alford three-pointer gave the Bruins a 9-2 lead with 17:06 to go in the half.
Kentucky would close the gap a few times. Tyler Ulis's three-pointer with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half cut the Bruin lead to 2, 19-17. But Jonah Bolden pushed the Bruins' lead to five after being fouled. That was the start of a 13-4 run for the Bruins and UCLA led 32-21 with 4:21 to go before the break.
UCLA held tough for the remainder of the half and took an eight-point lead into the locker room, 37-29.
The Bruins were even tougher in the second half. Tony Parker's jumper and free throw gave UCLA a double-digit lead with 19:14 to go in the game and Kentucky could never get closer than that and the Bruins finished off Kentucky by a final score of 87-77.
It was the most complete game of the season so far for UCLA and possibly the most complete game of the Alford era. Thomas Welsh led all scorers with 21 while Isaiah Briscoe led Kentucky with 20 points. While every Bruin starter finished in double figures, only three Wildcats managed to accomplish that. Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton tied for second in scoring by putting up 15 points a piece.
Not only did Welsh lead all scorers, he recorded a double-double by pulling down 11 rebounds as well.
The Bruins outshot the Wildcats on 53% to 38% from the field and 46% to 32% from behind the three-point line.
An assist for this win should probably also go to the UCLA Athletic Department. In years past, the Athletic Department has dropped the ball by doing things like marketing to opposing teams. For this game, there was a strong and concerted effort to keep Kentucky fans out of Pauley Pavilion during their team's first visit by only selling tickets as part of larger ticket packages and, it worked. Pauley was packed for a weeknight home game with a 6pm start time with an announced 12,202 fans in attendance. That's only 677 short of capacity. The Gold Out shirts certainly made it looked packed on TV.
For UCLA, it was their first victory over a #1 team since they beat Arizona 96-89 in overtime on March 13, 2003 and, for Kentucky, it was their first regular season loss since March 8, 2014 against Florida.
Next up for the Bruins will be Long Beach State on Sunday.