Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will take on the UCLA Bruins at the United Center as part of the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday afternoon.
Steve Alford's Bruins are a solid 8-3 on the season and will be playing their second straight top-10 foe after dropping an 87-74 decision to then ninth- ranked Gonzaga a week ago. The loss brought an end to a four-game win streak for UCLA and was the team's first home loss this season in eight bouts.
John Calipari's Wildcats have yet to experience the agony of defeat. Kentucky has already played its share of top notch competition and has several marquee victories on the docket, with wins over Kansas (72-40), Texas (63-51) and most recently, last weekend's win over North Carolina (84-70). The win over the Tar Heels pushed UK's flawless record to 11-0.
These two historic programs have met just 10 times in history, with Kentucky holding a 6-4 series advantage.
The Bruins are usually the ones dishing out offensive superiority, but against Gonzaga, UCLA simply couldn't keep up. The Bulldogs managed to shoot a scorching .585 from the floor overall, including a 9-of-19 effort from 3-point range. The loss spoiled a strong outing by Bryce Alford, who hit five 3- pointers and finished with a team-best 23 points. Isaac Hamilton added 18 points, Kevon Looney tacked on 14 points, while Norman Powell chipped in with 12.
The Bruins are a strong offensive squad, coming into this game averaging a steady 80.8 ppg on .459 shooting from the floor. The team is averaging just under seven 3-pointers per game (6.9) and holds a +6.9 rebounding margin. All five starters are averaging double digits in scoring, making the team deep and versatile. Alford leads the charge at 18.0 ppg, while also finding time to serve as the primary distributor, doling out 6.7 apg. Powell (17.4 ppg) can fill up the basket as well. Looney (13.9 ppg, 10.9 rpg) is one of the most productive freshmen in the country. Hamilton (11.6 ppg) and Tony Parker (10.8 ppg) get involved as well.
The Wildcats have pretty much rendered any and all offensive-minded teams ineffective. Kentucky comes in leading the nation in scoring defense (48.0 ppg) as well as blocked shots (91). The team also boasts of inflated rebounding (+10.6) and turnover (+5.9) margins. Offensively, UK isn't shabby either, netting 76.2 ppg to give the team the nation's second-largest scoring margin (+28.2). Willie Cauley-Stein leads the way in the frontcourt with team- highs of 10.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Aaron Harrison is the only other Wildcat currently averaging double digits in scoring at 10.2 ppg. However, Dakari Johnson (9.2 ppg), Devin Booker (9.1 ppg) and Karl-Anthony Towns (8.5 ppg) aren't far off the mark.
Kentucky jumped all over North Carolina early on and took an insurmountable lead into halftime (49-34), before earning a 15-point win last week. The Wildcats shot a sizzling .563 from the floor overall and outscored UNC 23-10 at the free-throw line, while forcing the Tar Heels into 18 turnovers that turned into 24 points for the home team. Four Wildcats notched double figures in the win, led by Cauley-Stein and Booker, who netted 15 points each. Aaron Harrison finished with 14 points and Andrew Harrison tacked on another 11 for the Wildcats.