CHICAGO — The first half of Kentucky’s thorough destruction of UCLA didn’t feel real. The No. 1 Wildcats jumped out to a 24-0 lead on the Bruins and held them to 3-for-37 shooting to jump out to a 41-7 halftime lead.
If you thought it couldn’t get any worse than the Kentucky/Kansas debacle at the Champions Classic in November, you thought wrong. This was the most lopsided first half of basketball since the Monstars jumped out to a 66-18 lead on the Toon Squad in the movie Space Jam. Except UCLA didn’t have Michael Jordan or Michael Jordan’s “secret stuff” to bail them out. They still had to face waves of talented Kentucky players in the second half.
It didn’t get much easier in the second frame for the Bruins as they fell 83-42 to Kentucky in the second game of a doubleheader at the United Center.
“In my 24 years of coaching, that’s the best team I’ve seen,” UCLA head coach Steve Alford said of Kentucky after the game.
Kentucky shot 12-for-26 from three-point range and simply did whatever they wanted against UCLA. The Wildcats led 16-0 by the time the first TV timeout took place a little over four minutes into the game and the Bruins just seemed to give up hope after Kentucky landed the massive opening combination.
Freshman guard Devin Booker led Kentucky with 19 points, as he hit 5-of-6 three-point attempts, while sophomore guard Aaron Harrison finished with 15 points. Kentucky’s defense made UCLA look helpless as they held the Bruins to 26 percent shooting (19-for-71).
“I just said [to Alford], ‘That’s our good game right there. That’s as good as we go.’ I told Steve that,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said.
In two matchups against storied programs in neutral settings this season, Kentucky has held Kansas and UCLA to a combined 82 points. We knew how good the Wildcats were before Saturday’s game, but they once again stepped up and played with tremendous intensity in a spotlight game.
“Well the veterans, you know how well Andrew [Harrison] played, how well Aaron played in the NCAA Tournament. But my young kids are really good,” Calipari said of his team playing in big games. “But [the young guys] also have these veterans that are there for them. Each group is feeding off each other.”
UCLA looked like a potential NIT team entering this game and they certainly didn’t change the perception of how they’ll end up this season with this performance. The Bruins have a lot of things to fix if they want to stack up with the nation’s elite this season. Sophomore guard Isaac Hamilton paced UCLA with 14 points while sophomore point guard Bryce Alford was the only other Bruin to finish in double figures with 13 points.