Sidelines with John Clay

UCLA nearly blows 24-point lead before facing Kentucky on Saturday

UCLA head basketball coach Steve Alford instructs Bruins center Thomas Welsh (40) as UCLA practiced at FedExForum in Memphis, Tn., Thursday, March 23, 2017. Kentucky defeated UCLA in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The two teams play again Saturday in New Orleans.
UCLA head basketball coach Steve Alford instructs Bruins center Thomas Welsh (40) as UCLA practiced at FedExForum in Memphis, Tn., Thursday, March 23, 2017. Kentucky defeated UCLA in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The two teams play again Saturday in New Orleans. cbertram@herald-leader.com

Kentucky basketball’s next opponent nearly blew a 24-point lead and had to hang on through a late replay review Tuesday night at Pauley Pavilion as UCLA escaped South Dakota 85-82.

UCLA plays Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday in New Orleans. Ohio State plays North Carolina at 1:30 p.m. at the Smoothie King Center followed by Cats-Bruins at about 4 p.m. Both games are on CBS.

UCLA led South Dakota 78-54 in the second half before the Coyotes made a stirring comeback to pull within two at 84-82 with 2.3 seconds left. The Bruins’ Jaylen Hands made one of two free throws with 1.5 seconds left, then UCLA knocked away South Dakota’s inbounds pass at the buzzer.

The officials decided they needed to review the final play, however. That led to an eight-minute wait before the game was officially declared over.

Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times reported that the review took so long, “Bruins students got so bored they playfully conducted a second roll call, chanting the names of a few reserves on the bench.”

Closing out games has been a problem for the short-handed Bruins, now 8-3. Coach Steve Alford is still without freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, suspended after allegedly pilfering sunglasses during the team’s trip to China. Ball has withdrawn from school and will reportedly play professionally in Lithuania. Hoping to go with an 11-man rotation, the Bruins have been basically playing eight.

Back on Dec. 9, UCLA coughed up a 15-point lead at Michigan before losing 78-69 in overtime to the Wolverines. Guard Aaron Holiday played 43 minutes, while center Thomas Welsh clocked 40 minutes in Ann Arbor.

After a 77-63 home loss to No. 25 Cincinnati last Saturday, the Bruins got 19 points and 11 rebounds from Welsh and 15 points from Holiday to get the win over South Dakota, which dropped to 11-4.

Meanwhile, without the injured Jarred Vanderbilt and Jemarl Baker, Kentucky has been playing eight to nine players, as well.

Here’s the box score from UCLA-South Dakota.

Kentucky vs. UCLA

When: Saturday, Dec. 23

Where: Smoothie King Center in New Orleans

TV: CBS

Radio: UK Network

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments