REALLY Wild Cats can’t hit the bucket — UCLA burns #1 Kentucky to a crisp 87-77, as Alford thoroughly out-cooks Calipari, with his not-so-secret recipe of packing in the Defense, forcing UK to force outside shots, of which they hit 6 of 29 until after the game was decided… and the rest was gravy
What just happened? Did you see what I saw? The lowly, unranked 4-3 Bruins of UCLA just DOMINATED the 7-0 Kentucky Wildcats — formerly the #1 team in the Nation — 87-77, to shock the Country on National TV. The ESPN viewers from coast-to-coast were stunned as UCLA manhandled the team that destroyed the Bruins a year ago, leading 41-7 at halftime last season.
A similar outcome was expected by many Bruin fans this year, after watching losses to Monmouth, Wake Forest, and Kansas. Apparently, the betting public wasn’t convinced, making the Wildcats only SIX-POINT Favorites in the game. It sure seemed like a ridiculously low number, considering that Kentucky had beaten all 7 of their opponents this season by double-digits, including an 11-point win over mighty Duke.
And on this night, Kentucky took a 2-0 lead, BUT NEVER LED AGAIN!. The Bruins stormed ahead by 7 early, scoring more points in the first four possessions than they did in the entire first half last year. UCLA steadily increased the lead to double-digits, and was up by 8 at the half, and by 15 in the second. Kentucky averaged 42 point in the paint this year, but couldn’t get anything near the basket against UCLA’s defense. They just kept forcing up bad perimeter shots, which clanked off the rim with regularity. But the most surprising aspect of the game was that the Wildcats were usually held to one shot per possession. Against a vaunted Duke team, Kentucky kept getting Offensive Rebounds and put-backs, so that they rarely came out of a possession without points — But not against UCLA.
The Bruins played only 7 guys, but all of them had great games and made solid contributions. Center Thomas Welsh was probably the MVP, with 21 Points, 11 Rebounds, and 2 Blocks, but fellow big man Tony Parker was crucial as well. Parker was the strongest, toughest guy on the court, and OWNED the paint. Jonah Bolden came in off the bench and also held his own in the front court, frustrating the Cats at every turn. In the back court, Aaron Holiday was super-impressive. Not playing like a Freshman, he made several great moves, and hit a few big shots to keep the Bruins in charge. Holiday finished with 10 points, 8 Rebounds, and 7 Assists. Bryce Alford made shots outside and inside, scoring 15 points, as did Isaac Hamilton, who really came through again, shooting well, and handling the ball effectively. That 8-turnover game of his is becoming the exception, not the rule now. Bruin fans no longer need to clench when Isaac has the ball. He even made a great inbounds pass off the ass of an opponent, back to himself for an uncontested lay-up. Finally, there was Prince Ali, who made two spectacular driving baskets, including a highlight-reel dunk over a 6’9″ defender that will be the ESPN Play of the Day, Week, and Month.
This mind-blowing upset — UCLA’s first over a #1 team in a dozen years — just goes to show that no matter how bad this Bruin team looks at times, or how inconsistent they appear to be, they can BEAT ANY TEAM, on any given day. Of course, we shouldn’t forget that Kentucky’s star Forward sustained a head injury at the start of the game, and never returned, and that their star Point Guard was playing with an injured arm that he couldn’t straighten, and he shot 2-for-12 from the floor. If these teams meet again in the Tourney, I wouldn’t be too cocky as a Bruin fan. But it’s still good to see that the Bruins are not intimidated by a #1 team who schooled them last year. Anything is possible, so even when things look bleak, you should never give up hope.
Speaking of never giving up, here are 38 more photos of the UCLA Spirit Squad…