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UCLA Beats #1 Kentucky Again, 97-92

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This time, the Bruins beat the Wildcats on the home floor.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA went into Lexington today and beat the number one team in the country. It was a very good win for the Bruins. They showed resilience and, unlike so many of last year’s games, they didn’t collapse in the second half.

UCLA took an early 4-0 lead on a TJ Leaf layup and a Bryce Alford jumper. Kentucky clawed their way back to a 4-3 deficit before Bryce hit the first three pointer of the game to make it 7-3. But the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run to take a 14-7 lead with 14:31 to go in the first half.

Two minutes later, Dominique Hawkins hit a three to give Kentucky an eight-point lead and the score was 19-11. Hawkins would extend the Wildcats’ lead to 9 with 10:25 to go when he made a layup to give them a 23-14 edge. Obviously, no one knew it at the time, but that would be the Wildcats’ biggest lead of the game.

It was also the point from which UCLA would show how resilient they are.

Bryce Alford dropped a three and Isaac Hamilton made a jumper to cut the lead to just 4 as UCLA trailed 23-19 with 9:44 to go.

With UCLA down 27-20 and 8:24 to go in the first half, Ike Anigbogu had a monster dunk that looked like it could have come from a video game. That started an 8-2 run for the Bruins which closed the Kentucky lead to just one.

But the Wildcats bounced right back with a 5-0 run to open their lead back up to 6 with about 6 minutes left in the half. A 7-2 run by the Bruins cut the lead back down to one with just over 5 minutes to go, but Malik Monk temporarily stopped the UCLA comeback when he nailed a three-pointer to make the score 39-35.

After that shot, UCLA continued their charge and a 9-2 run gave UCLA a 44-41, three-point lead with two minutes to go before the break. Kentucky would tie it again at 44-44 when Isaiah Briscoe hit the first of two free throws with 1:13 left. Isaac Hamilton put the Bruins up for good with a jumper and with just 47 seconds left in the half.

Following a split pair of Kentucky free throws by Edrice Adebayo, UCLA got the ball back with 30 seconds on the clock. Steve Alford called a timeout to set up a play. Whether or not he the team executed the play they discussed doesn’t matter. Lonzo Ball nailed a three-pointer from St. Louis with 3 seconds left to give the Bruins a 4-point lead at the break.

UCLA came out of the locker room on fire as they immediately went on an 11-2 run to start the second half, taking 60-47 13-point lead.

For almost the entire second half, Kentucky was unable to get closer than seven points. It wasn’t until Adebayo made a layup and subsequent free throw with 17 seconds to go that the Wildcats were able to cut the lead to just five points, 94-89.

In the last 14 seconds, Bryce Alford made 3 of 4 free throws while the Wildcats could only muster a three-pointer from Derek Willis and the Bruins left Rupp Arena with the 97-92 win.

Malik Monk led all scorers with 24 points in the game while De’Aaron Fox added 20 for the Wildcats. Isaac Hamilton led the Bruins with 19 points. TJ Leaf added 17 for UCLA and was the only Bruin in double figures on rebounds with 13. The other Bruin starters each had 14 points and Aaron Holiday had 13 points coming off the bench.

UCLA now has all next week off until Michigan comes to Westwood for a game next Saturday at 5pm PT.