SACRAMENTO, Calif. – UCLA had trouble getting its high-octane offense going in the first half against Cincinnati’s big, athletic defenders.
Once the Bruins got rolling, there was no stopping them – all the way into the Sweet 16.
Next up: A blue blood rematch with Kentucky in the South Regional semifinals.
Lonzo Ball scored 19 points and ignited UCLA’s rally from a poor start with nine second-half assists, lifting the third-seeded Bruins to a 79-67 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday in the South Regional.
“I don’t know of a more fun basketball team to watch when we’re clicking and we’ve had a lot of games where we’ve been clicking,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said.
UCLA (31-4) had a hard time solving sixth-seeded Cincinnati’s active defense in the first half, unable to get shots to drop or get out in transition. The Bruins found a new gear in the second half, breaking out for dunks and dropping in strings of 3-pointers to quickly push the lead to double digits.
UCLA had 21 assists and three turnovers, earning its third Sweet 16 appearance in four seasons under Alford, erasing – at least in part – the 15-17 letdown of a year ago.
The Bruins will face No. 2 seed Kentucky in the South Regional semifinals Friday in Memphis. UCLA had one of its biggest wins the past two seasons against the then-top-ranked Wildcats in December, knocking them off 97-92 in Lexington.
“It’s a very, very good basketball team,” Alford said “I think they’re better now in March than they were when we played them in December and I think we’re better than what we were in December as well. Makes for a great matchup.”
Cincinnati (30-6) had no real answer when the Bruins got rolling, falling short of their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2012. UCLA hit 19 of 30 shots in the second half, including 7 of 14 from 3-point range against the Bearcats.
Jarron Cumberland had 15 points to lead Cincinnati.
“Once they got on a roll a little bit, they were running downhill,” Bearcats coach Mick Cronin said. “Fatigue got us. It affected our defense.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.