UK looks to avenge last year’s loss against No. 11 UCLA


Freshman guard Malik Monk goes up for a layup during the game against Cleveland State on Wednesday, November 23, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the game 101-70. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Chris Angolia

On Saturday afternoon at Rupp Arena, two of the most storied programs in college basketball are set to go head-to-head when No. 1 UK hosts No. 11 UCLA in what is shaping up to be one of the biggest games of this nonconference season.

Just a year ago, the Bruins upset the top-ranked Cats in Los Angeles and as one might imagine, UK is looking to get some revenge which has created an obvious hype leading up to this year’s game. Now with both teams entering the game undefeated, there is even more buzz that surrounds Saturday’s matchup.

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One thing that both of these teams have in common is that they are both led by their backcourts. 

For the Bruins, they are led by freshman sensation, point guard Lonzo Ball. 

Through just eight games, Ball has drawn early comparisons to Jason Kidd and averages nearly a double-double, averaging 16 points and 9.1 assists per game. Ball is joined in the backcourt by Bryce Alford, son of Bruins coach Steve Alford, who is second on the team in scoring averaging 17 points per game. 

While Ball and Alford are the two most likely candidates to give the Cats problems on Saturday, it was Bruins center Thomas Welsh who gave UK fits last year dropping 21 points. Welsh was able to expose a big problem with the Cats’ frontcourt last year. But freshman Bam Adebayo looks to have already surpassed last year’s frontcourt in terms of productivity, and come Saturday it should be much more difficult on Welsh.

With Welsh and Adebayo going at it in the frontcourt, and Ball and Alford going up against UK’s guards, the Cats are going to need to continue to play defense the way they have been.

The Bruins have scored 80+ points in all but one game this season, and UK has allowed only two of their seven opponents to break the 70-point mark. UCLA’s success on the offensive end has been due largely in part to their field goal percentage in which they rank in the top-5 nationally.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of this matchup will be the tempo which these teams play at, both rank in the top-30 in adjusted tempo rankings, according to And it has been clear that UK wants to get out and run especially with guards De’Aaron Fox, Isaiah Briscoe and Malik Monk constantly looking to push the pace.

Nonetheless, it is going to be a fast paced, star-studded affair at Rupp Arena on Saturday with two basketball powerhouses going head to head in what should be a raucous environment.