Notes, numbers on UCLA Bruins

Isaiah Briscoe inside the UCLA defense in Rupp Arena. (Chet White/UK Athletics)

LOS ANGELES – No. 3-seed UCLA (31-4) will take on No. 2-seed Kentucky (31-5) in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 on Friday, March 24, at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn.

The Bruins’ game against Kentucky will begin at approximately 6:40 pm PT (8:40 pm CT).

This will mark the Bruins’ second contest against the Wildcats this season, as UCLA secured a 97-92 victory in the program’s first-ever game at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena on Dec. 3, 2016.
No. 3-seed UCLA (31-4) vs. No. 2-seed Kentucky (31-5)
Memphis, Tenn. – FedExForum (capacity: 18,119)
Friday, March 24 – approximately 6:40 pm PT (8:40 pm CT)
TV Talent: Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson (sideline)
Sirius/XM Radio Channels: Ch. 136/Ch. 201
Sirius App. Channel: Ch. 961
The Bruins have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in the last four seasons, all under fourth-year head coach Steve Alford. Last weekend in Sacramento, No. 3-seed UCLA took down No. 14-seed Kent State, 97-80, on Friday before securing a 79-67 victory over No. 6-seed Cincinnati on Sunday night.
Freshmen TJ Leaf (17.0 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Lonzo Ball (16.5 ppg, 6.0 apg, 5.5 rpg) helped lead the way in UCLA’s two wins last week. Ball shot 76.5 percent from the field, making 13 of 17 shots (and 6 of 10 attempts from 3-point range). Junior Thomas Welsh averaged 13.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in two wins.
The Bruins most recently played at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., in a Sweet 16 matchup against No. 1 overall seed Florida on March 27, 2014 (UCLA lost to Florida, 79-68). As the No. 4 seed in the South Region in that season’s tournament, UCLA had advanced to Memphis after winning back-to-back games at Viejas Arena (San Diego).
Friday night’s game will mark the fourth meeting between UCLA and Kentucky in the last three seasons. UCLA has won the last two matchups. The Bruins won in Pauley Pavilion last season, 87-77 (12/3/15), before taking down the Wildcats, 97-92, in UCLA’s first-ever game at Rupp Arena earlier this year (12/3/16).
Through games played March 19, UCLA continued to lead the nation in scoring (90.2 ppg), overall field goal percentage (52.1%), assists per game (21.6), total assists (755) and assist-turnover ratio (1.93). No UCLA team has ever had an assist-turnover ratio as high as 1.93 or totaled as many as 755 assists in one season (on record).
Now in his fourth season as UCLA’s head coach, Steve Alford guided the Bruins to three Sweet 16 appearances (2014, 2015 and 2017). This season, Alford has led UCLA to a 31-4 overall record (and a 15-3 Pac-12 mark), the most total wins by any UCLA team since the Bruins’ 2007-08 squad went 35-4.
The Bruins have defeated every team on their schedule, having avenged losses to Oregon, Arizona and USC with wins over those Pac-12 teams in February rematches. UCLA opened the season with a perfect 13-0 record through the non-conference portion of its schedule before an 89-87 loss at Oregon on a last-second three-point shot (Dec. 28).
UCLA has gone 15-3 away from home this season, including a 7-1 record in neutral site games. The Bruins became the only team to have ever won games in the same season against Kentucky at Rupp Arena (Lexington, Ky.) and versus Arizona in the McKale Center (Tucson, Ariz.). Kentucky was ranked No. 1 in the nation, while Arizona was ranked No. 4.

The Bruins secured three Pac-12 “road sweeps,” picking up road wins at Colorado and Utah (Jan. 12, 14), at Washington State and Washington (Feb. 1, 4) and at Arizona State and Arizona (Feb. 23, 25). UCLA is the only Pac-12 school to have ever swept road series at Colorado/Utah and Arizona State/Arizona in the same season.
Ranked No. 6 (USA Today Coaches) and No. 8 (AP) in last week’s polls, UCLA has been ranked in the top 10 in both major polls in 14 of 18 weeks this season (does not include preseason poll). The Bruins have been ranked in the top 5 in one of the major polls in 11 of 18 weeks, ascending to as high as No. 2 in both polls for four weeks in December.
The Bruins went 7-0 through the month of February and were the Pac-12’s only program to have logged a perfect record that month. No UCLA team had gone undefeated in February since the 1994-95 squad went 9-0. UCLA’s 1995 team finished the season with six consecutive NCAA Tournament wins to secure the NCAA Championship.

UCLA has compiled a 4-3 record against teams that have advanced to the Sweet 16. UCLA secured non-conference wins over Kentucky (97-92 on Dec. 3) and Michigan (102-84 on Dec. 10), in addition to going 1-1 versus Oregon and 1-2 against Arizona. The Bruins have faced Kentucky three times in the past three seasons and have played North Carolina in each of the previous two years. UCLA has not faced Butler since Nov. 27, 2009 (at the 76 Classic in Anaheim).
The Bruins have averaged a nation-leading 21.6 assists per game, the highest per-game average of any NCAA Division I team since 1996, when Kentucky captured the NCAA Championship while tallying 21.8 assists per game. UCLA has dished at least 20 assists in 22 of 35 games, including a season-high 30 against Arizona State (Jan. 19).

UCLA is one of just four schools in the nation to have seen its men’s and women’s basketball teams advance to the Sweet 16. Joining UCLA in that select group include Baylor, Oregon and South Carolina. The men’s basketball program has secured its third appearance in the Sweet 16 in the last four seasons, while the UCLA women’s program is making its second consecutive appearance in the Sweet 16 this season.

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