Lonzo Ball scored 19 points and ignited UCLA’s rally from a poor start with nine second-half assists, lifting the third-seeded Bruins to a 79-67 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday in the South Regional.
”I don’t know of a more fun basketball team to watch when we’re clicking and we’ve had a lot of games where we’ve been clicking,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said.
UCLA (31-4) had a hard time solving sixth-seeded Cincinnati’s active defense in the first half, unable to get shots to drop or get out in transition. The Bruins found a new gear in the second half, breaking out for dunks and dropping in strings of 3-pointers to quickly push the lead to double digits.
The Bruins will face No. 2 seed Kentucky in the South Regional semifinals Friday in Memphis. UCLA had one of its biggest wins the past two seasons against the then-top-ranked Wildcats in December, knocking them off 97-92 in Lexington.
”It’s a very, very good basketball team,” Alford said ”I think they’re better now in March than they were when we played them in December and I think we’re better than what we were in December as well. Makes for a great matchup.”
The 11th-seeded Trojans had rallied from second-half deficits to win their first two NCAA Tournament games , but Baylor’s Manu Lecomte was the spark that held the Trojans at bay. The point guard from Belgium didn’t score until a four-point play that gave the Bears a 69-67 lead with 4:40 remaining. It started his run of eight points in 45 seconds, and third-seeded Baylor never trailed again, winning 82-78.
”This was a game that was there for the taking if we would have executed down the stretch,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.