No. 11 UCLA upsets No. 1 Kentucky in Rupp Arena

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Coming into the season, the thinking on UCLA was pretty simple: This is either going to be Final Four-good team or they’re going to end up crashing and burning in the NIT.

I think we have our answer.

Isaac Hamilton scored a team-high 19 points and Lonzo Ball shook off a horrid start to the game to finish with 14 points and seven assists as the No. 11 Bruins picked up the biggest win of the Steve Alford era, beating No. 1 Kentucky in Rupp Arena, 97-92.

It’s the second-straight season that the Bruins have beaten Kentucky. The Wildcats lost to UCLA in Pauley Pavilion last season.

The Bruins dug themselves a hole early, as Ball committed five of his six turnovers in the first nine minutes of the game. UCLA’s biggest and brightest star struggled early in his first true road game as a collegian. He looked rattled, making uncharacteristically bad decisions and getting lit up by De’Aaron Fox on the defensive end of the floor, and the result was that Kentucky was able to get out in transition, get some easy baskets and get themselves an early 23-14 lead.

The difference in the game ended up being a pair of overlooked players.

Sophomore guard Aaron Holiday changed the course of the game. He had all of his 13 points and each of his four assists in the first half, keeping Kentucky from getting too big of a lead and allowing Ball to grow into the game.

But the star, and the guy that could end up being what takes this UCLA team to another level, was T.J Leaf. He finished with 17 points, 13 boards and five assists. He posted a steal and a block, numbers that aren’t exactly representative of the impact he had on the interior defensively, and he and freshman Ike Anigbogu provided a toughness and an athleticism up front that we haven’t seen from UCLA in recent seasons.

“You know going into Rupp it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere and a great team. We knew that,” Leaf said after the game. “We came in, gave it our all, did a good job on the backboards and got the win.”

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Ike Anigbogu #13 of the UCLA Bruins blocks a shot by Isaiah Briscoe #13 of the Kentucky Wildcats in the first half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Ike Anigbogu (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Anigbogu finished with a loud six points and six boards, including one sequence where he blocked Bam Adebayo’s shot at one end and threw down a put-back dunk at the other. Thomas Welsh added 14 points and eight boards. All told, the Bruins controlled the paint all afternoon, and while they gave up 92 points, their performance on the defensive end was impressive.

That’s a dangerous and talented Kentucky team, one that entered Saturday having reached triple-digits in three straight games.

And the Bruins more than held their own, getting stops when they mattered the most.

“I was really proud of the defensive stops we got when we had to get them,” Alford said in the postgame interview.

Last season, the Bruins finished 119th in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric. They were 58th in the country entering Saturday. That’s where their Achilles’ heel is going to be. That’s where their success this season is going to be determined. Will they consistently get stops? Are they going to be better on the defensive glass, where they finished 205th last season? Can they stop penetration? Defend the rim when their guards get beaten? Hold their own against the physicality and athleticism of the best teams in the country?

On Saturday, in what could end up being their most significant test of the season, the Bruins passed with flying colors.

And the credit goes to Leaf, Anigbogu and Welsh.

Because we know what this team can do offensively. We know they can put up 97 points in a road game against a team that can defend the way Kentucky can defend. We know how many shooters they have, how they can spread the floor and how Ball can take advantage of that space and create good shots on every possession.

“This is one of the harder places to play,” Alford said. “For us to come in here and do the things we were able to do against a really good defensive team … tells me a lot about what we can do offensively.”

It also tells Alford that his team only needs to be ‘good enough’ defensively to make them a title threat.

And the most important thing that we learned on Saturday is that the Bruins are ‘good enough’.

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 03: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after making a three-point basket against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half of the game at Rupp Arena on December 3, 2016 in Lexington, Kentucky. UCLA defeated Kentucky 97-92. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Lonzo Ball (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Tennessee center Tamari Key out for season with blood clots

Saul Young/News Sentinel/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee senior center Tamari Key will miss the rest of this season because of blood clots in her lungs, coach Kellie Harper said.

Doctors found the issue during testing. Key is expected to make a full recovery after treatment from University of Tennessee doctors, Harper said, adding that her sole concern is Key getting the medical care she needs to heal and return to full strength.

Key missed the first game of her career in a win Tuesday night over Chattanooga after playing her first 99.

“This is much bigger than basketball. We are so grateful that this medical condition was caught,” Harper said in a statement. “Our entire program will be right beside Tamari during this process and welcomes prayers and positive thoughts from Lady Vol Nation and beyond.”

The Lady Vols opened the season ranked fifth but currently are 5-5.

The 6-foot-6 Key from Cary, North Carolina, currently is Tennessee’s third-leading scorer averaging 8.4 points a game and averaged 4.2 rebounds per game. She started all 34 games as the Lady Vols reached their first Sweet 16 since 2016 last season and set the school record with 119 blocked shots.

Key had 18 blocks this season and 295 for her career, five away from becoming the eighth woman to reach that mark in Southeastern Conference history.

No. 7 Tennessee beats Eastern Kentucky, win streak hits 7

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Saul Young/USA TODAY NETWORK
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tyreke Key scored 10 of the first 12 points of the second half and finished with 17, and No. 7 Tennessee overcame a sluggish first half and beat Eastern Kentucky 84-49 on Wednesday night.

“Tyreke is handling the ball now,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said. “That’s all new to him. He keeps getting better.”

The Volunteers (8-1) struggled in the first half but still built an 11-point lead over Eastern Kentucky (4-5) on the way to their seventh straight victory.

Key led Tennessee in scoring before leaving with a cramp in his right leg with 6:15 left in the game. Julian Phillips had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Zakai Zeigler and Uros Plavsic added 13 points apiece. Olivier Nkamhoua scored 10.

“I’m still settling in,” said Key, a transfer from Indiana State who didn’t play last year while recovering from an injury. “This is a new role. I’m taking steps every day and keep learning.”

Eastern Kentucky, which came into the game averaging 83.5 points, was held well below that total due to 17% (6 for 35) shooting from long range and 22% (15 for 68) overall. Leland Walker led the Colonels with 13 points.

It was the seventh time this season Tennessee has held its opponent to 50 or fewer points.

“(Tennessee) is the best defensive team in the country,” Eastern Kentucky coach A.W. Hamilton said. “I think they’re the best team in the country.”

At one point in the first half, Tennessee was shooting 20% and still leading by 10 points. The teams combined to shoot 4 of 32 from 3-point range in the first 20 minutes. The Vols, who shot 24% (8 of 34), led 32-21 at the break.

“If we can’t make shots, can you find a way to win the game?” Barnes said. “When the shot’s not going in, find a way to play. The first thing we talk about is our defense.”

Tennessee shot 41 free throws. Phillips, a true freshman, was 7 of 10.

“(Phillips) has learned the pace of the game,” Barnes said. “I’m not sure there’s been a more effective freshman in the country (this season).”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Since its early season slip against Colorado, Tennessee has had a steady ascent in the rankings. The Vols’ next two games – neutral site (Brooklyn) against No, 13 Maryland (Dec. 11) and at No. 10 Arizona (Dec. 17) – will go a long way toward justifying the No. 7 ranking.

BIG PICTURE

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels’ run-and-gun style of offense had them averaging 83.5 points through their first eight games. They ran into a defensive buzz saw in Tennessee, which was yielding just over 51 points.

Tennessee: Santiago Vescovi sat out his second straight game with a shoulder problem. He is expected to be ready to play Sunday against Maryland. . The Vols have won seven in a row since their loss to Colorado.

UP NEXT

Eastern Kentucky: The Colonels host Boyce College on Saturday.

Tennessee: Take on No. 13 Maryland on Sunday at the Hall of Fame Invitational in New York.

Hoggard scores career-high 23, Michigan State snaps 2-game skid

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Matthew OHaren/USA TODAY Sports
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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A.J. Hoggard scored a career-high 23 points, Joey Hauser had 12 points and 15 rebounds and Michigan State beat Penn State 67-58 on Wednesday night to snap a two-game losing streak.

Michigan State (6-4, 1-1 Big Ten) avoided going .500 or worse after 10 games for the first time in 18 seasons.

Hoggard blocked an open layup with less than a minute to play and Hauser grabbed the rebound before being fouled and making two free throws at the other end for a 66-58 lead.

Hoggard, Hauser and Tyson Walker combined for 31 of Michigan State’s 32 second-half points.

The Michigan State defense allowed only one made field goal in the final five minutes. Penn State was just 1 of 9 from 3-point range in the second half after 7 of 18 before halftime.

Walker scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half for Michigan State. Hoggard, who entered third in the conference in assists at 6.3, had six rebounds, two assists and one key block.

Hoggard gave Michigan State 35-33 lead – its first since 4-2 – after back-to-back three-point plays with 59.3 seconds left in the first half. It was tied at 35-all at the break.

Seth Lundy scored 16 points and Jalen Pickett had 13 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists for Penn State (6-3, 0-1)

Michigan State hosts Brown on Saturday. Penn State, which hadn’t played since a double-overtime loss to Clemson on Nov. 29, plays at No. 17 Illinois on Saturday.

No. 7 Virginia Tech posts 9th straight win, beats Boston College 73-58

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BOSTON — Reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year Elizabeth Kitley had 22 points and 12 rebounds, and Cayla King scored 16 on Wednesday night to lead No. 7 Virginia Tech to a 73-58 victory over Boston College, the Hokies’ ninth straight win.

Taylor Soule, one of two BC transfers on the roster for Virginia Tech (9-0, 1-0 ACC), added nine points and five rebounds. Soule scored more than 1,500 points and grabbed almost 700 rebounds in four seasons at BC, earning All-ACC honors three times.

Andrea Daley scored 15 points and Maria Gakdeng scored 14 for BC (7-4, 0-1). They each grabbed six rebounds.

Virginia Tech scored 17 of the game’s first 21 points and led by as many as 19 in the third quarter before BC cut the deficit to 10 in the fourth. Leading 64-54 with under three minutes left and the shot clock expiring, Kayana Traylor hit a 3-pointer for the Hokies.

Gakdeng missed two free throws for BC, and then Kitley scored from inside to make it a 15-point game.

Clara Ford, who also played four years in Chestnut Hill, pitched in 2 points in 2 minutes against her former team.

BIG PICTURE

At No. 7, the Hokies have the highest ranking in the program’s history. With the victory over BC, a 10th straight win against North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday would leave Virginia Tech in position to move up even higher should a top five team falter.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech: Hosts North Carolina-Asheville on Sunday.

Boston College: Hosts Albany on Saturday.

Michigan’s Jaelin Llewellyn out for season with knee injury

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan point guard Jaelin Llewellyn is out for the rest of the season with an injured left knee and is expected to have surgery next month.

Wolverines coach Juwan Howard made the announcement three days after Llewellyn was hurt in a loss to Kentucky in London.

Llewellyn transferred to Michigan from Princeton last spring and that seemed to lead to Frankie Collins transferring to Arizona State after a solid freshman season for the Wolverines.

Llewellyn averaged seven points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists in eight games at Michigan. He was an All-Ivy League player last season and averaged nearly 16 points over three seasons at Princeton.