The Runner Sports

UCLA, Led By Lonzo Ball, Advance To Sweet 16

After a tough first round win against Kent State, UCLA hadn’t really made that impact to say that they may make a deep run. Last night’s win over Cincinnati may have just done that. The Bearcats are an extremely talented defensive team with a surprising offensive flair. Mick Cronin’s defensive squad just wasn’t enough for a talent heavy UCLA team as the Bruins eventually pulled away in a 79-67 win in the second round.

The only major team statistic that UCLA did not win was rebounding where the Bearcats had 32 compared to UCLA’s 30. Other than that UCLA was the far superior team. The most impressive stat was as a team UCLA had 21 assists to just 3 turnovers. That’s right a 7 to 1 assist to turnover ratio as a team; even more so impressive when you think of the Bearcats defensive prowess.

Lonzo Ball showed why many consider him the best player in this year’s upcoming draft. Ball dropped 18 points with 9 assists and 7 rebounds. Those stats would be impressive alone, but when you realize how efficient he was in getting those, it’s even more so. Ball was 7-10 from the field, 4-7 from three-point, and only had one turnover. Every one of UCLA’s starters scored in double figures, Bryce Alford with 16 being the team’s second-leading scorer behind Ball. Cincinnati had struggles that they could not correct, Troy Caupain finished his career on 3-11 shooting and just 9 points, he had been the senior leader and UCLA held him in check.

UCLA looks forward to a second matchup with Kentucky this season. Back in December, UCLA beat then #1 ranked Kentucky 97-92; that was the moment America realized how good this Bruins team could be. It’s going to be a matchup in which NBA scouts will attend, two of the best point guards in America on the court. Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox is the fastest player in college basketball, he averages 16.1 points and 4.6 assists a game. To counter that, UCLA has possibly the most versatile point guard in the nation with Lonzo Ball, who averages 14.7 points and 7.6 assists a game along with 6.1 rebounds. The Wildcats’ Malik Monk can absolutely go off and may be the best scorer in this game, he dropped 47 on a talented North Carolina team earlier this season. UCLA has the gun slinging Bryce Alford with shades of Marshall Henderson the former Ole Miss standout. Alford averages 15.6 points a game while shooting over 43% from deep. The big man Bam Adebayo for Kentucky will have to face the two-headed monster down low for UCLA in Thomas Welsh and TJ Leaf.

This game showcases the beauty of this time of year. Although UCLA got the early laugh, Kentucky may get the final say in the matter. This may be one of the most talent-filled matchups the tournament will see this year. It will undoubtedly be fast paced, remember the 97-92 final score of the first matchup. For certain NBA scouts will be watching, along with the rest of the nation to find out who will advance to the Elite 8.