Steve Alford calls win over UK huge
Instant analysis from Kentucky’s 97-92 loss to UCLA:
How the game was won
UCLA ended the first half on a 12-4 run and began the second with an 11-2 spurt to create separation Kentucky could not overcome.
1. Lonzo Ball. The UCLA freshman point guard (14 points, five rebounds, seven assists) started horridly (five turnovers, one made field goal in the first half), but his five straight points after UK had pulled within 78-71 were decisive.
2. UCLA balance. The Bruins essentially use six primary players and all six had at least 13 points.
3. Steve Alford. In the past two seasons, Alford has matched as UCLA head coach the number of wins (two) over Kentucky that the ex-Indiana star accumulated as a Hoosiers player from 1983-87.
Running suicide drills
1. Kentucky power forwards. Wenyen Gabriel and Derek Willis were badly outplayed by UCLA freshman T.J. Leaf (17 points, 13 rebounds, five assists).
2. Wildcats defenders. Don’t see UK allow foes to shoot above 50 percent too often. UCLA went 35-of-56, 53 percent.
3. UK foul shooters. Cats shot more free throws (18-of-27) than UCLA (17-of-21) but did not take full advantage.
Five. UCLA’s victory is only the fifth loss for John Calipari in Rupp Arena as the Kentucky head coach. The others were Baylor (2012-13), Texas A&M (2012-13), Florida (2013-14) and Arkansas (2013-14).
A Rupp Arena crowd of 23,976 saw ex-Cat standout Jeff Sheppard hit a half-court shot to win a $10,000 donation from Kentucky Farm Bureau to the UK general scholarship fund. Jack Givens was the “Y.” Coach Mark Stoops and the UK football team brought the Governor’s Cup to midcourt at halftime. It seemed everyone in Rupp wanted to shake the hand of Cats quarterback Stephen Johnson — the hero of last week’s 41-38 upset of Louisville.
Kentucky (7-1) will face Valparaiso (7-1) at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 7, in Rupp Arena in a game telecast by the SEC Network. In their most recent game, the Crusaders beat No. 21 Rhode Island 65-62 on Nov. 29 at home.
Know your foe
1. New Valparaiso head coach Matt Lottich is the first person outside of Homer Drew’s immediate family to coach the Crusaders since 1988. Homer Drew was hired as Valpo head man in 1988-89. For the 2002-03 season, Homer retired and was replaced by his son, Scott Drew. Homer returned after that season, however, when Scott left for Baylor. The elder Drew stepped down again in 2011, succeeded this time by younger son, Bryce Drew. Bryce, of course, left Valparaiso after last season to become Vanderbilt coach.
2. Over the two prior seasons, Valpo won 28 (2014-15) and 30 (2015-16) games. In the 2015 NCAA Tournament, the Crusaders, a 13 seed, lost to No. 4 Maryland 65-62 in the round of 64. Last year, Valparaiso was runner-up in the NIT, losing in the finals to George Washington.
3. Valparaiso’s leading scorer, 6-foot-9 Alec Peters, is one of the best players in the country. The 235-pound senior from Washington, Ill., averages 25.4 points and 9.4 rebounds.