UCLA prepares for test against Cincinnati

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- UCLA coach Steve Alford had not begun to prepare for Cincinnati in the moments after the Bruins beat Kent State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday night, but he plannrf to get started right away.

"That will happen late into the night tonight and then all day tomorrow," he said.

The third-seeded Bruins (30-4) will face the sixth-seeded Bearcats (30-5) in a second-round South Regional game Sunday night at the Golden 1 Center. Alford believes his team will be tested by the Bearcats, who have won an average of 25 games in the past seven seasons under longtime coach Mick Cronin.

"I have a lot of respect for Mick," Alford said. "He does a tremendous job and they've been really consistent like we have. You've got two teams that have been used to winning all year long, so obviously something's got to give on Sunday. It's got all the makings of a great game, fighting to see who can get to the Sweet 16."

The Bruins are vying for their third Sweet 16 bid in the past four years. The Bearcats haven't been to the Sweet 16 since 2012.

UCLA advanced to the second round with a 97-80 victory over 14th-seeded Kent State. The Golden Flashes overcame a 20-point deficit to get within four early in the second half, but the Bruins staged a 16-2 run to pull away.

TJ Leaf had 23 points and six rebounds for UCLA. Thomas Welsh had 16 points and eight rebounds. Lonzo Ball had 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting with four rebounds and three assists, and Aaron Holiday came off the bench to post 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The Bruins received a scar when Ball crashed to the floor after trying to catch a lob late in the first half. He had to be helped to his feet and was clearly hobbled in the final minute of the half but appeared to move more freely in the second half.

"I'm fine," Ball said. "Finished the game. Got up. I'm good."

Alford said he was concerned when Ball went down.

"I didn't know if he was going to finish the game," Alford said. "I just wanted him to get up."

Cincinnati moved on to the second round with a 75-61 victory over 11th-seeded Kansas State. Troy Caupain had 23 points and seven rebounds for the Bearcats. Kyle Washington scored 16 points. Gary Clark had 15 points and seven rebounds.

"I thought Troy played his best game of the year," Cronin said.

Some suspected Cincinnati was unhappy after it was seeded sixth and shipped to the West Coast for the third time in four years, but Caupain shrugged off such speculation.

"I was thankful to have the opportunity to be playing in March," he said. "Seeding didn't matter. I knew we were going to have to be ready to play basketball regardless. ... We prepare for any challenger, even if he got a higher seed. (I am) thankful and happy to play on Sunday."