SEC, yes the football power, has 3 teams in Elite 8

It was a season of mostly highs that ended on a down note for UCLA, the Bruins finishing four wins short of Ball's stated goal of a national championship.

By the end of the night, UCLA knew it couldn't stop De'Aaron Fox, and the Kentucky point guard wasn't about to take mercy on the Bruins. "They said, yeah, 'OK, good, then you know we're playing through De'Aaron Fox".

UCLA guard Lonzo Ball shoots the ball against Kentucky in the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament South Regional semifinal game Friday, March 24, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn. The former IN star ticked off how both sons (Bryce and Kory) have graduated from UCLA, he has the No. 2 recruiting class coming IN and a new practice facility opening soon.

Lakers executive Magic Johnson was at the game to scout the slew of potential lottery picks, seated three rows in front of UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. That wasn't a problem with Kentucky fans. The Texas native also dished out four assists, recorded two steals and committed only one turnover in 36 stellar minutes of action.

"This was the funnest year I've had playing basketball my whole life", Leaf said.

"Obviously it's not going to be an easy cover for anybody", Ball said of Kentucky's arsenal of guards.

A team known for a swarming zone used it effectively down the stretch to beat Florida 77-70 on Sunday and win the East Regional at Madison Square Garden.

"He's just such an elite skill set as a ball handler, and his speed and quickness to get by people, you just don't see very often", UCLA coach Steve Alford said Thursday. But though Fox's perimeter jump shot remains sub-standard - his 39 points did not include a single three-point shot - he is so disruptive on defense and so hard to handle en route to the basket that he might make the better pro.

"I mean right now they're just showing them how strong our conference is", Fox said.

Bryce Alford received the ball a few seconds later and hoisted up the final shot of his college career, the final shot that this year's Bruins would ever take.

"Sometimes those guys aren't real coachable, and he was phenomenal to coach", Alford said.

UCLA's 90.2 points per game average leads the nation, but Kentucky's 85.2 isn't far behind (ninth). "We've had our share of some very good one-and-dones". The game was a back-and-forth thing for a half, but then Malik Monk got going and the combination of those two freshmen left UCLA - which has two vaunted freshmen in Ball and T.J. Leaf - in the dust, which is a place these sleek Bruins have never been.

Adebayo's stock has generally dropped over the course of the season, but the 6-10 frontcourt player's projections haven't fallen out of the first round. He scored off the fast break, and his second 3 with 15:52 gave Kentucky a 50-44 lead.

Kentucky got revenge against UCLA and will have to beat North Carolina for a second time this season to reach the Final Four. It was an encouraging sign for Kentucky to win without getting much offense from Adebayo. The 6-10 forward had been averaging a double-double during Kentucky's winning streak, but he finally scored his lone bucket off a dunk with 3:17 left. Totals 29-55 8-13 75. He scored 13 of the Cats' last 15 points, including 9-10 from the free throw line. Totals 31-63 14-17 86.

Fox finished the game with 39 points, three rebounds, four assists, two steals and just one turnover.

Friday night's game marked the final collegiate contest for Alford and Hamilton, who are both on track to graduate this year.

  • Julie Sanders