Holiday, Wilkes, lead UCLA to upset of No. 7 Kentucky, 83-75
NEW ORLEANS (AP) UCLA guard Aaron Holiday delivered a steadying performance and a clutch finish to a made-for-TV holiday weekend event.
And he did it in the same arena where his brother, Jrue Holiday, plays home games in the NBA – albeit to the disappointment of a decidedly pro-Kentucky crowd.
Holiday capped a 20-point performance with a pivotal driving scoop and two free throws in the final 33 seconds, and UCLA upset No. 7 Kentucky 83-75 on Saturday.
”It’s always special when you can play where your brother’s played,” Holiday said. ”Obviously, he’s doing really well right now (with the New Orleans Pelicans), so that’s good. But just to get the win out here, it’s just awesome.”
Kris Wilkes also scored 20 points, and Thomas Welsh added 13 points and 11 rebounds for UCLA (9-3), which won for the seventh time in 15 meetings between these historical college basketball powerhouses.
Bruins coach Steve Alford thought the victory was an important step for a squad relying on freshmen like Wilkes and some returning players who didn’t see heavy minutes last season.
”It’s good for them to see that, you know what, we can win a game like this,” Alford said. ”If we keep growing, we could be pretty good.”
Hamidou Diallo scored 18 points and Wenyen Gabriel added a season-high 16 points for Kentucky (9-2), which lost for the first time in eight games.
”We’re better than this,” said Kentucky coach John Calipari, who harped on his players’ poor decision-making and inconsistent effort. ”Maybe it was Christmas, but (UCLA) didn’t have that issue and they flew from across the country. And hats off to them. They played well. They made shots they had to make. They made free throws they had to make.”
Kevin Knox had 15 points for Kentucky on an array of perimeter shots and slashing dunks, but Kentucky didn’t shoot well overall. The Wildcats went 6 of 21 from 3-point range and were outshot overall, 47.5 percent (29 of 61) to 42.6 percent (29 of 68).
Kentucky hit only two of 10 3-point shots in the first half.
Yet when Gabriel made the Wildcats’ second 3 17 minutes into the game, Kentucky led 37-29.
But Jaylen Hands’ layup and Welsh’s 3 ignited what grew into a 21-2 Bruins run, putting UCLA ahead 50-39 early in the second half. Welsh and Ali each hit two 3s during the pivotal surge.
Kentucky didn’t go down easily, though. Knox hit two 3-pointers and a soaring baseline dunk during a 13-2 Kentucky spurt that tied it at 52 and spiked the volume of the crowd at the CBS Sports Classic.
But a poised Welsh again helped spark a UCLA spurt with a steady jump shot as the crowd urged on Kentucky’s defense, and the Bruins built their lead back to 12 on Holiday’s free throws before Kentucky made one last charge that came up short.
UCLA: Hands, who scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, and Prince Ali, who had 12 points on 4-of-7 from the field, gave the Bruins the balanced, efficient scoring they needed to hold off an explosive but inconsistent Kentucky squad.
Kentucky: The Wildcats demonstrated the requisite athleticism and talent to win the game with spectacular highlights on both ends of the court. Ultimately, they were done in by careless passing and a propensity to settle for deep or difficult shots against a team playing well enough to make them pay for their mistakes. Some of their 14 turnovers – including nine in the second half – were caused by UCLA’s sound positioning and active hands. But others were passes to spots vacated by teammates who apparently were not on the same page.
”We tried to make the hardest plays when we were in the guts of the game,” Calipari said as he began to mock his players’ thought processes. ”I have a chance for a layup? I’m going to pull up and shoot this. … I don’t get an `ooh’ and an `ah’ when I make an easy play. I like to make this look-away, throw-over-my-shoulder pass.”
While Calipari expressed disappointment his team couldn’t sustain second-half surges long enough to take the lead, he expressed hope the loss would provide lasting lessons for his latest freshman-filled squad.
”As much as you hate to say it, you got to get knocked in the mouth and lose and it’s got to hurt every player,” Calipari said. ”Today we played a team that wanted the game worse than we wanted it. This is usually what happens. … They’re bouncier. They’re diving for balls. They’re playing with more emotion. You are losing that game. So we deserved to lose.”
UCLA returns to Pac-12 play when the Bruins host Washington State on Thursday night.
Kentucky is back home on Friday to host in-state rival Louisville.
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