After losing to Kansas, Wake Forest and even Monmouth, UCLA wasn’t given much of a chance to knock off No. 1 Kentucky on Thursday, especially after the Bruins were embarrassed in Lexington last season. The Bruins trailed 41-7 at halftime in that game and lost 83-44.
Thursday, however, was a different story. UCLA (5-3) led by eight at the break and placed all five starters in double digits to stun the top-ranked Wildcats, 87-77, at Pauley Pavilion.
“We wanted to send a message tonight,” Bruins guard Bryce Alford said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I think we definitely did that. Not only did we win this game, but we were up by double digits pretty much for 35 minutes of the game. So we knew that nobody believed that we were going to win this game, let alone even keep it competitive. So we wanted to come out here and shock everybody and we knew that we could do that.”
The Bruins shot 28-of-53 (52.8 percent) from the floor, snapping Kentucky’s 50-game streak of holding opponents under 50 percent shooting. Center Thomas Welsh had 21 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, while Aaron Holiday (10), Tony Parker (11), Alford (15) and Isaac Hamilton (15) all scored between 10 and 15 points.
Kentucky (7-1), meanwhile, shot just 37.9 percent from the floor.
“If you can hold a team like them to shoot that percentage,” Alford said, “it’s pretty good for your defense.”
The Wildcats were plagued by foul trouble throughout. Alex Poythress and Derek Willis fouled out, while Skal Labissiere and Isaiah Briscoe had four fouls each.
“They love to pressure,” Alford said. “They were playing full court the entire game. As a guard, I love that kind of stuff. If guys are going be all up on you, you got to know how to create fouls. We got a lot of their guys in foul trouble, which really helped us down the stretch.”
It was the Bruins’ first win over an AP-ranked No. 1 team since 2003. They now have 11 such wins – the second-most of all time.
“It was a big, big, big win for us tonight, but we were confident going in,” Alford said. “We knew that we had a chance to win and we were confident we were going to do it.”
UCLA’s head coach, of course, is Steve Alford – Bryce’s father. Interestingly enough, Scott Ferrall covered Steve’s career at Indiana. In fact, Ferrall was at the Superdome when the Hoosiers beat Syracuse, 74-73, for the 1987 national championship.
Ferrall asked Bryce what it’s like playing for his father.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Obviously there’s times when I don’t want to hear a single thing he says because he’s my father and he’s yelling at me and he gets on me more than anybody else. At the same time, I know he loves me and he’s doing it for the good of me as an individual and for the team, so it’s something that I definitely wouldn’t trade for the world.”