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In a day full of upsets, the Kentucky Wildcats managed to escape the Wichita State Shockers, 65-62, thanks to stifling defense at the buzzer.
The win advances Kentucky to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in John Calipari’s eight-year tenure as head coach. But, the road to Phoenix gets bumpy when the Wildcats hit Memphis.
The second-seeded Wildcats have a re-match with another blue blood program, the UCLA Bruins.
UCLA and Kentucky met in a high-scoring affair back in December, but the Bruins managed to knock off the Wildcats in Lexington, 97-92.
In December, these two were nearly identical teams. They scored almost 100 every game and didn’t worry too much about the other side of the ball. Now, Kentucky’s offensive has taken a dive shooting-wise, so they made changes on defense.
These two teams have gone in different directions since their last meeting, Kentucky focuses on defense while UCLA outruns their opponents. They have bought into their systems and have taken completely different paths to the Sweet Sixteen.
A highlighted match-up will be UCLA’s Lonzo Ball against Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox in a battle of elite freshman point guards.
Fox has taken control of the team from the moment the SEC Tournament started, driving to the rim strong without turning the ball over. With Malik Monk still coming out of his slump, Fox will need to continue to lead his team if they want to get past UCLA.
Ball is another type of monster when it comes to point guards. Coming off a near triple-double against Cincinnati, Ball proved just how explosive he can be when his team needs him to take over.
Kentucky’s got a player that can take over a game, but he hasn’t been much of a factor since March began.
Monk has been slumping since Kentucky’s final regular season game against Texas A&M in which he only scored six points. The freshman shooting guard changes his team when he’s knocking down his shots.
Granted, Kentucky hasn’t lost despite the shooting woes for Monk, but that won’t cut it against UCLA. To beat a high offensive team such as the Bruins, they will need a big game from their star.
Kentucky and Monk have had their backs against the wall on many occasions this season, managing to take charge during these high pressure situations.
Chalk this meeting in Memphis up as just one more obstacle Kentucky will have to overcome on the road to Phoenix.