Steve Alford was beaming with pride after his UCLA Bruins came into Rupp Arena and beat No. 1 Kentucky 97-92 to break UK’s 42-game home win streak.
“The respect I have for Cal and what he does and the team that he produces is phenomenal. For our guys to come in here and do the things that they did, they’re always learning lessons when you’re in November and early December. The games that you get to play are games that you get to learn a lot. We’ll take this back. It’s a huge win for us,” Alford said.
“Gives us a lot of momentum as we go into finals and Michigan next weekend. It’s good to see offense, defense, against one of the best teams in the country, but you probably won’t lose another game in here all year. For us to come in here and get a win, it’s huge for us. I couldn’t be more proud. We had a flow of the game.
“I thought we controlled things in the second half.
We thought it would be a track meet. It was. We made shots, and if we can make shots in this environment against a team like this, it’s very encouraging.
“I thought at the start of the second half we had some key stops to get the lead above 10. Then we really settled in and had poise until about the last two minutes. That’s probably on us as coaches more that it is the guys. We haven’t been in a game like this where we’ve had to burn clock and get the ball in against pressure. We’ll learn and be better the next time the next time.”
Alford once played in Rupp Arena when he was at Indiana but he had never coached at Rupp Arena. His team did beat Kentucky at UCLA last year and being embarrassed by the Cats in Chicago two years ago.
“We need a win like this with starting 8-0 and doing the things that we’ve done to date. I think not so much for any game. I saw a lot of people before the game. I just saw Rex (Chapman). I haven’t been in here in 33 years, so it’s been a while since I’ve been in here. We played well that night and I think lost by five or six points. So, to come back in here, it’s an incredible place to play with a lot of history and tradition,” Alford said.
“I’m happy for our guys because our guys get experience that. I didn’t think there was anything about them today that was a feeling out process. We talk about, ‘Don’t go in and jab around the ring to see if you belong. You’re 8-0. You’re playing well. Trust that you belong.’ That was the key thing that guys did from the tip.
“They make me not think about anything except enjoying coaching them. They’ve been a lot of fun to coach, and we’re looking forward to see what happens down the road. We got a chance to be pretty good.”