UCLA headed to Sweet 16 rematch vs. Kentucky; USC season ends

UCLA's Lonzo Ball celebrates after making a three-point shot during the second half vs. Cincinnati on Sunday.
AP

UCLA is moving on while USC is going home after Sunday’s NCAA Tournament matchups.

The Bruins had trouble getting its high-octane offense going in the first half against Cincinnati’s big, athletic defenders.

Once the Bruins got rolling, there was no stopping them — all the way into the Sweet 16.

Next up: A blue blood rematch with Kentucky in the South Regional semifinals.

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.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report