Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
“You know going into Rupp, it’s gonna be a crazy atmosphere and great team and we knew that,” UCLA forward T.J. Leaf, who had a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds to go with 5 assists, said on CBS. “And we just came in, gave it our all, played as hard as we can and we did a good job on the backboards and got the win.”
It was the highest point total ever allowed by a Kentucky team at Rupp under head coach John Calipari. who is now 69-7 as the coach of the No. 1-ranked team there.
Kentucky had won 42 straight home games, its last loss coming to Arkansas, 71-67 in overtime, on Feb. 27, 2014.
“First of all, you’ve got to give UCLA credit,” Calipari said, per Kyle Tucker of SECCountry.com. “I mean, what (T.J.) Leaf did, he basically dominated the game. We had no one, unless I was going to go big lineup, which we haven’t done a whole lot, which shows me maybe we have to be prepared for that. But he killed us.”
Calipari played down the importance of a sickness that apparently swept through his team this week and caused him to cancel Saturday morning’s shootaround.
“(Sickness) had nothing to do with anything,” Calipari said. “The factor in the game is they played better than us and they played harder than us. They had more fight than we had. They made some shots when we missed some shots. The reality of it is: We’re a defensive team. We walked into this game thinking, ‘We’re just going to try to score.’ I had a bunch of guys play that way.”
Isaac Hamilton went for 19 points for UCLA, including making 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, Thomas Welsh scored 14 points and Aaron Holiday 13. Freshman point guard Lonzo Ball had 14 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds and 6 turnovers for a UCLA team that shot 10-of-23 from beyond the arc.
“Coming in here, obviously this is one of the harder places to play,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “We’ve got the utmost respect for Cal and what he does and the team he’s put together. For us to come in here and just do the things we were able to do, get back to upper 90s. That’s a really good defensive team and we put 97 on them, so it tells me a lot about what we can do offensively, but I was really proud of the defensive stops we got when we had to get them.”
Twenty-seven NBA personnel from 20 teams were on hand to watch a slew of projected lottery picks and first-round selections, including Ball and Kentucky freshmen Malik Monk (24 points), De’Aaron Fox (20 points, 9 assists) and Bam Adebayo (18 points, 13 rebounds). Sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe added 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
Kentucky got to within 80-74 with about 5 minutes remaining, but Ball hit a huge 3-pointer.
The Wildcats closed to within 95-92 thanks to a 9-1 run that included a conventional three-point play by Adebayo and a 3-pointer from Derek Willis.Bryce Alford (14 points) hit two free throws with 7.4 seconds left to extend the lead to 97-92 and Fox missed a 3-point attempt on the other end.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Alford said, “this is a huge win.”
Photo: USA Today Sports
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.