Third-seeded UCLA races past Cincinnati
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[March 20, 2017]
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- If this is
indeed the road to the Final Four for UCLA, the Bruins will look
back on their Sunday game as the one they had to win before they
could challenge college basketball's bluebloods for the national
The lights were brighter and the stakes were higher, but freshman
point guard Lonzo Ball was as stoic and sensational as ever, leading
UCLA to a 79-67 victory over Cincinnati in a South Regional game
Sunday night at the Golden 1 Center.
Ball posted 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for the
third-seeded Bruins, who advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time
in four years. The sixth-seeded Bearcats led at halftime, but Ball
orchestrated the offense beautifully as the Bruins took control in
the second period.
"We haven't been rattled much, and when your point guard plays with
the poise that ours plays with, I think it has a calming effect on
everybody," UCLA coach Steve Alford said. "Things didn't click the
way we wanted them to offensively in the first half, but there was
no panic. There has never been panic in our locker room or in a
huddle. A lot of that has to do with Zo's demeanor."
The Bruins (31-4) will face second-seeded Kentucky in the Sweet 16
on Friday in Memphis, Tenn. UCLA, which beat the Wildcats earlier
this season at Rupp Arena, could face North Carolina in the Elite
Eight and Kansas in the Final Four.
"I think we're very well prepared for whatever is thrown at us,"
Alford will get no argument from Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin.
"They're probably the best offensive team to play college basketball
in a long, long time," Cronin said.
Bryce Alford broke out of his shooting slump to score 16 points for
UCLA. TJ Leaf and Thomas Welsh had 11 points and seven rebounds
apiece. Isaac Hamilton added 10 points.
Jarron Cumberland scored 15 points for Cincinnati (30-6). Kevin
Johnson and Jacob Evans had 13 points apiece. Gary Clark contributed
11 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Going into the game, UCLA led the nation in scoring at 90.6 points
per contest. Cincinnati ranked fourth in scoring defense, holding
opponents to 60.8 points.
The Bruins knew the Bearcats would be bigger, stronger and tougher
than the Kent State squad that outrebounded them in the opening
round. The Bearcats knew the Bruins would try to push the pace.
The tempo worked to Cincinnati's advantage in the first half. The
Bearcats took their time at the offensive end and effectively slowed
the game down.
[to top of second column]
Cincinnati Bearcats center Nysier Brooks (33) dunks the ball against
UCLA Bruins forward TJ Leaf (22) during the second round of the 2017
NCAA Tournament at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle
Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Johnson made two 3-pointers as part of an 8-0 run
that gave Cincinnati a 14-8 lead. The Bearcats went up 19-13 on a
jumper by Cumberland, but UCLA battled back to take a 27-26 edge on
a 3-pointer by Ball. The Bearcats reclaimed the lead moments later
and carried a 33-30 advantage into the halftime break.
The Bruins picked up the pace early in the second period, starting
the half with a 10-3 run to take a 40-36 lead on a 3-pointer by
Hamilton. Evans converted a three-point play to put the Bearcats
back on top, but the lead wouldn't last long.
Ball drained back-to-back 3-pointers and Bryce Alford added another,
fueling a 9-0 run that put UCLA ahead 55-47 with 12:30 remaining.
The Bruins went up by 10 on a transition dunk by Ike Anigbogu and
extended their lead to 12 on a layup by Ball.
The Bearcats got within seven on a basket by Cumberland with 4:28 to
go, but two dunks by Leaf pushed the lead back to double digits,
starting the celebration for UCLA.
"Once they got on a roll a little bit, they were running downhill,"
NOTES: UCLA freshman PG Lonzo Ball was named a finalist for the
Naismith Player of the Year Award on Sunday along with Kansas' Frank
Mason III, Villanova's Josh Hart and Purdue's Caleb Swanigan. ...
Freshman F Ike Anigbogu returned after missing UCLA's first-round
game with a sprained foot, an injury he sustained in practice
Tuesday. He scored six points in seven minutes against the
Bearcats.... In Saturday's media session, Cincinnati coach Mick
Cronin said UCLA freshman PG Lonzo Ball is "probably the best passer
since Jason Kidd or Magic Johnson," adding that Ball is "going to be
an NBA All-Star." ... Cincinnati was 13-0 this season when shooting
50 percent or better. The Bearcats shot 44.8 percent Sunday. UCLA
shot exactly 50 percent.
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