Kentucky runs UCLA ragged, 94-68 Wildcats block 14 shots, get 5 double-figure scorers to advance to final vs. Duke

South Regional

March 21, 1998|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.---They are a big-name team with no-name players, a team out to prove it can get to the Final Four without Rick Pitino and his galaxy of future NBA stars. One more game and Kentucky will be there again.

With an expected, yet still overwhelming, 94-68 victory over sixth-seeded UCLA last night at Tropicana Field, the second-seeded Wildcats advanced to the South Regional final in hopes of going to their third straight Final Four.

"We felt we had a pretty efficient performance," first-year Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said after his team's 10th straight victory. "We knew they were depleted because of the injury to their point guard, but I thought our kids were really focused and ready to play."

The victory also set up a rematch of the 1992 East Regional final, a game that has been called the most exciting in NCAA tournament history and maybe the best college game ever played. It was won by Duke, 104-103, in overtime on Christian Laettner's last-second shot after Grant Hill's long, nearly uncontested inbounds pass.

No last-second heroics were needed last night for Kentucky (32-4). Behind a balanced offense in which five players scored in double figures, and a defense that blocked a regional record 14 shots, the Wildcats took control early and never relented.

A 9-0 run gave the Wildcats an early 11-2 lead, which grew to 26-11. Undermanned and overwhelmed with freshman point guard Baron Davis out because of a season-ending knee injury suffered in Sunday's second-round win over Michigan, UCLA (24-9) cut its deficit to 28-21 with the help of consecutive 'N three-pointers from senior forward Kris Johnson.

But the Wildcats finished the half with a 12-2 run to take a 40-23 lead at halftime. The Bruins were 9-for-35 from the field in the first half, and had eight shots blocked.

The Kentucky lead grew to 20 points, 52-32, on a dunk by Allen Edwards with a little under 16 minutes left, and to 25 points, 70-45, on a three-pointer by Myron Anthony with 8 1/2 minutes to go.

"We used our depth to wear them down," said Wildcats senior forward Scott Padgett, who scored a team-high 19. "Everyone did a great job when they came in."

Even little-used reserve guard Ryan Hogan -- the nephew of former Wildcats star Kevin Grevey -- got into the act, hitting a pair of three-pointers to push Kentucky's lead twice to as many as 32 points.

Only two Bruins baskets in the final 15 seconds prevented it from becoming the most one-sided loss in the NCAA tournament for a UCLA team. The Bruins lost to Indiana, 106-79 in the West Regional final six years ago.

"I was just sad it had to end this way," said senior guard Toby Bailey, who finished with 16 points on 4-for-15 shooting. "But I was proud of the freshmen. Everyone played as hard as they could."

UCLA -- Reed 2-13 3-5 7, Johnson 7-15 1-2 18, Henderson 5-20 0-0 10, T.Bailey 4-15 7-8 16, Watson 1-8 4-4 6, Knight 1-2 1-1 3, Daley 2-3 0-0 4, Ramasar 0-0 0-0 0, Harbour 0-1 0-0 0, Loyd 0-0 0-0 0, Hines 1-2 2-2 4, McGautha 0-0 0-0 0, Farnham 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-79 18-22 68.

KENTUCKY -- Edwards 5-6 0-0 10, Padgett 6-8 6-6 19, Mohammed 6-9 3-5 15, Turner 4-7 0-0 8, Sheppard 7-14 0-0 16, Masiello 0-2 0-0 0, Smith 0-1 0-1 0, Evans 3-4 4-4 10, Mills 0-3 0-0 0, Hogan 2-4 0-1 6, Anthony 2-4 0-0 5, Bradley 1-5 0-0 2, Magliore 1-1 1-2 3. Totals 37-68 14-19 94.

Halftime--Kentucky, 40-23. 3-point goals--UCLA 4-19, (Johnson 3-8, T.Bailey 1-5, Watson 0-4, Knight 0-1, Daley 0-1); Kentucky 6-14, (Sheppard 2-6, Hogan 2-3, Padgett 1-2, Anthony 1-1, Mills 0-1, Edwards 0-1). Rebounds--UCLA 52 (T.Bailey 11); Kentucky 42 (Mohammed 7). Assists--UCLA 9 (T.Bailey 3); Kentucky 21 (Edwards 5). Total fouls--UCLA 17, Kentucky 18. A--40,589.

Pub Date: 3/21/98

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