UK Men's Basketball

Paybacks are ‘L:’ UCLA avenges last year’s embarrassment by beating Kentucky 87-77

John Calipari after loss to UCLA

Kentucky coach John Calipari talks to media after his team's 87-77 loss at UCLA.
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Kentucky coach John Calipari talks to media after his team's 87-77 loss at UCLA.

UCLA wanted a lot out of Thursday night’s game. The Bruins wanted to avenge last season’s humiliation at the hands of Kentucky, prove they had the toughness necessary to be a factor nationally this season and celebrate the 50th anniversary of Pauley Pavilion in style.

UCLA got all of that in a 87-77 victory over Kentucky.

The Bruins, 5-3, took the lead inside the first two minutes and never relinquished it.

“We got kicked, and every once in a while, this stuff happens.”

UK, which lost its first regular-season game since March 8, 2014, saw its big men thoroughly outplayed. Star freshman Skal Labissiere scored six points and grabbed only one rebound. Alex Poythress fouled out with almost 10 minutes remaining.

UCLA center Thomas Welsh scored 21 points, one shy of a career high. He was one of five Bruins to reach double figures.

With poor shooting by Tyler Ulis, who returned from a one-game absence because of a hyper-extended elbow, and Jamal Murray, the Cats seemed doomed to fight uphill all night. The pair made only seven of 28 shots.

We got kicked, and every once in a while, this stuff happens.

John Calipari

Throughout the preseason and early season, Calipari has been calling for more toughness. Losing Marcus Lee in the first half because of a blow to the head did not help.

But even with Lee, a Kentucky victory would not have been a certainty.

“There was not one area they didn’t beat us in,” Calipari said. “Hats off to them. They did a great job.”

Athletic and Hollywood celebrities like Jessica Alba, Jaleel White, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Shaquille O’Neal were part of the crowd.

Kentucky, 7-1, had much to think about after losing in its only “true” road game until Southeastern Conference play.

UCLA Coach Steve Alford said before the game that his team had to handle Kentucky’s on-ball defense.

“It’s really about how smoothly we can get into an offense . . . (and) make people guard,” he said. “Kentucky does a very good job speeding you up and making you play at a much higher rate than you want to play. Kind of like Coach (John) Wooden’s days. They hurry you up and you can’t play in a hurry because it affects your decision-making.”

As Wooden would say, the Bruins were quick, but did not hurry.

Except for a 42-second span when the deficit was down to nine points, Kentucky trailed by double-digits throughout the second half until Jamal Murray hit a three-pointer with 1:08 left.

UCLA also sought to make amends for a disappointing showing in the Maui Invitational last week. In particular, a loss to Wake Forest stung.

“Toughness is what it comes down to,” Tony Parker said of the Wake Forest loss. “We came out with a soft mentality, and we got beat. We’ll continue to get beaten until we toughen up.”

For the first time this season, Kentucky trailed at halftime. UCLA led 37-29, and the statistics suggested UCLA should have led. The Bruins outshot (50 percent-37.5 percent) and outrebounded (18-17) UK. UCLA also got to the foul line more (7-2).

Kentucky’s only first-half lead came on the game’s first basket.

Otherwise, the first half bore no resemblance to UK’s 83-44 humiliation of UCLA in Chicago last season. In that game, which was the last time UCLA played a No. 1-ranked team, the Bruins missed their first 17 shots and fell behind 24-0.

This time, UCLA made its first shot: a dunk by Welsh. By making four of their first five shots, the Bruins surpassed the seven points they scored against Kentucky in the first half last season inside the first three minutes.

Welsh, who led UCLA with eight first-half points, got a lot of mileage out of the pick-and-pop. Labissiere struggled to defend the play or make an impact offensively (two points, one rebound).

UCLA defended without fouling. The Bruins were not whistled for a foul while playing defense until only 1:32 remained in the first half. UK, which lacked a low-post scoring presence, did not shoot a free throw until Briscoe went to the line with 23.2 seconds left.

Alford called UCLA’s defense “paint-oriented.” He was happy the Cats took 25 three-point shots. UCLA outscored Kentucky in the paint 30-28.

No play better typified Kentucky’s first-half struggles than an inbounds play with 6:29 left. Isaac Hamilton tossed the ball off the back of Ulis, then stepped inbounds, retrieved the ball and made a reverse layup before UK players could react.

The Cats took 25 three-point shots as UCLA outscored them 30-28 in the paint.

UK started the second half with Humphries and Poythress as its “bigs.” But the Cats needed a Plan B when Poythress picked up his second, third and fourth fouls in the first 1:50 of the second half.

Except for a 42-second span when the deficit was down to nine points, Kentucky trailed by double-digits throughout the second half until Murray hit a three-pointer with 1:08 left.

The nadir came with 9:56 left. Prince Ali drove and threw down a dunk over Poythress. It was Poythress’ fifth foul, ending his one-for-six, four-point night.

Derek Willis, who gave up 40 pounds to defensive target Parker, gave Kentucky a spark. He stole a lazy Alford pass and raced to a fast-break dunk that reduced the UCLA lead to 63-53 with 8:57 left.

But Kentucky did not score another basket in the next two minutes.

Etc.

UCLA plays three ranked teams within 17 days: No. Kentucky, No. 13 Gonzaga and No. 9 North Carolina. … Alford needed 44 points to reach 1,000 in his career. He will be 52nd UCLA player to score 1,000 points. … Kentucky and UCLA will complete the two-game, home-and-home contract with a game in Rupp Arena on Dec. 3, 2016.

UCLA 87, No. 1 KENTUCKY 77

KENTUCKY

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Lee

4

1-1

0-0

2

0

1

2

Labissiere

16

2-3

2-2

1

0

4

6

Ulis

38

2-12

4-4

2

9

3

9

Briscoe

27

7-10

5-8

2

1

4

20

Murray

35

5-16

2-3

5

0

3

17

Matthews

14

1-4

0-0

3

1

1

2

Humphries

27

1-2

2-4

6

0

1

4

Poythress

17

1-6

2-2

5

1

5

4

Hawkins

8

1-3

0-0

3

0

0

2

Willis

14

4-9

2-2

6

0

5

11

Totals

200

25-66

19-25

37

12

27

77

Percentages: FG .379, FT .760. 3-Point Goals: 8-25, .320 (Murray 5-11, Briscoe 1-2, Willis 1-4, Ulis 1-5, Poythress 0-1, Matthews 0-1, Hawkins 0-1). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 2 (Labissiere 2). Turnovers: 8 (Murray 3, Ulis 2, Labissiere, Briscoe, Humphries). Steals: 6 (Ulis 2, Murray 2, Poythress, Willis). Technical Fouls: None.

UCLA

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

PF

PT

Parker

26

3-5

5-7

3

2

4

11

Welsh

36

8-11

5-6

11

0

2

21

Holiday

33

3-6

2-2

8

7

3

10

Hamilton

35

4-11

6-8

3

2

3

15

Alford

37

5-13

3-4

5

4

2

15

Ali

12

3-4

2-4

3

0

0

8

Bolden

21

2-3

3-3

3

1

4

7

Totals

200

28-53

26-34

38

16

18

87

Percentages: FG .528, FT .765. 3-Point Goals: 5-11, .455 (Holiday 2-2, Alford 2-5, Hamilton 1-2, Ali 0-1, Bolden 0-1). Team Rebounds: 2. Blocked Shots: 3 (Welsh 2, Bolden). Turnovers: 10 (Holiday 5, Alford 4, Hamilton). Steals: 5 (Parker, Hamilton, Ali, Holiday, Bolden). Technical Fouls: None.

Kentucky

29

48

77

UCLA

37

50

87

A—12,202. Officials—Verne Harris, Randy McCall, David Hall.

Next game

Eastern Kentucky at Kentucky

Wednesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)

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