Fox’s 39 points lift UK past UCLA in Sweet 16



Anthony Crawford

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In the hyped rematch between No. 2 UK men’s basketball and the No. 3 UCLA Bruins, UK was powered by freshman De’Aaron Fox in the 86-75 Sweet 16 victory. 

UK’s freshman point guard led UK with 39 points in the win over the fellow blue-blood program. 

Despite the offensive reputation of both teams, the first half was a slugfest that mainly featured poor shooting from both teams. The Bruins and the Cats both boast roster with many weapons, but the two teams had top-heavy box scores going into the locker room.

The Bruins were led by freshman TJ Leaf, but it was more because UK had no answer for him defensively rather than out of necessity. The skilled forward scorched UK for 13 points in the first half, while also drawing two fouls on both UK’s four-men— Derek Willis and Wenyen Gabriel. 

UCLA’s other notable freshman Lonzo Ball also had a nice start with six points and three assists in the first half. 

UK got off to a slower start, but luckily the team was able to rely on its point guard. De’Aaron Fox started out a perfect 4-for-4 from the floor while scoring UK’s first eight points. Fox ended with 15 points in the half, and UK went into the half with the lead thanks to the rest of UK eventually showing up.

UK senior Dominique Hawkins and Willis were responsible capping off an 8-0 run with back-to-back threes to give it’s first lead of the game. The half ended with the lead changing hands 13 times after this.

Freshman Malik Monk waited until a majority of the half had been played until finally scoring, but a stretch near the end of the half where he scored five-straight was huge for UK.

The last member of UK’s headliner freshmen trio, Bam Adebayo, was the major Cat that struggled in the first half. In his 18 minutes of play before halftime, Adebayo went scoreless and only pulled down one rebound. He ended the game with only two points and four rebounds, but dished out a career-high five assists. 

The pace immediately picked up in the second half. Monk came out of the locker room blazing, scoring ten points in first 4:44. He went on to finish the game with 21 points.

UCLA seemingly had an answer every time though as senior Bryce Alford finally got going for the Bruins. After going scoreless in the first half he knocked down three treys after halftime and totaled 13 points. Ball finished with 10 points and eight assists for the Bruins.

During a stretch in the second half, UK went scoreless for nearly three minutes and allowed UCLA to pull within four points. But then once again UK’s seniors came up big with three from Willis and Hawkins. Hawkins finished the game with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting. Willis struggled scoring eight points while going 3-for-11 from the floor, but also lead UK with eight rebounds.

UK led throughout the entire second half and turned to Fox to close out the game. UCLA had no way of stopping the UK point guard from getting to the rim, and he came through for UK with a career-day. Fox finished with a career-high 39 points in the win. He shot 13-for-20 from the field and only turned the ball over once. 

UK advances to the Elite Eight for the eighth time under head coach John Calipari. The Cats will face UNC Sunday at 5:05 p.m. ET.