UCLA guard Lonzo Ball (2) celebrates after hitting a three-point shot against Cincinnati during a second-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 19, 2017. UCLA won 79-67. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)
Rare is it that Lonzo Ball, UCLA’s single-season assist leader, goes a half without an assist. He more than made up for his relatively slow start Sunday night.
The fantastic freshman continued to dazzle for the Bruins (31-4) as he dished out nine second-half assists and racked up 18 points with seven rebounds in UCLA’s 79-67 win over Cincinnati in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Sacramento. The No. 3 Bruins advanced to face No. 2 Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday at 6:40 p.m. PT in Memphis.
Ball knocked down two critical 3-pointers, starting with one at the 13:31 mark in the second half that gave UCLA a two-point lead it never relinquished. He scored when he had to, but he also energized his struggling teammates.
TJ Leaf and Bryce Alford combined for three points in the first half, but finished with 11 and 16 points, respectively.
Aaron Holiday continued his stellar play off the bench during the NCAA Tournament with five points, two steals and five assists with no turnovers. The sophomore had 16 assists in the past two games with only two turnovers.
UCLA head coach Steve Alford and guards Lonzo Ball and Bryce Alford talk about UCLA’s 79-67 win over Cincinnati on Sunday in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament.
Ball led the Bruins with 18 points, seven rebounds and nine assists with only one turnover as he hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the second half that spurred UCLA to the win. Alford had 16 points (13 in the second half) on 5-for-13 shooting with three assists and one steal.
UCLA advanced to its third Sweet 16 in four years and will face No. 2 Kentucky on Friday at 6:40 p.m. PT in Memphis.
Thomas Welsh, with his midrange jumper, is one of many potent weapons UCLA has on offense. HARRY HOW — GETTY IMAGES
UCLA loves to run. Cincinnati loves to wait.
The team that successfully imposes its will on offense will likely be the one to emerge from Sunday’s NCAA Tournament second-round matchup between the No. 3-seeded Bruins and the No. 6-seeded Bearcats at 6:40 p.m. PT in Sacramento.
“We’ve got to keep that ball moving whether we’re at half court or at the full court,” UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. “We’ve got to make sure our spacing is good, our cutting is sharp, our screens are good and physical and the ball moves. If it doesn’t and it becomes a grind that favors them.”
UCLA (30-4) is trying to advance to its third Sweet 16 in four years under Alford. Cincinnati (30-5) is in its seventh straight NCAA Tournament.
Cincinnati’s Troy Caupain (10) drives past Connecticut’s Rodney Purvis (15) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Storrs, Conn., Sunday, March 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Although Cincinnati is known as a stifling defensive team, it’s the team’s offense that will be the key in Sunday’s second-round NCAA Tournament game against UCLA.
“Our defense is just as bad as everybody else’s if we’re on the run,” Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said. “We’re on the run defensively and our scouting report is out the window.”
Cronin said it’s imperative that the Bearcats are efficient on offense. They must get offensive rebounds, make shots or gets fouled. Absolutely no live-ball turnovers, guard Troy Caupain said. Once opponents misstep on offense, then UCLA gets out in transition and delivers lethal blows as a dizzying rate.