MEMPHIS, Tenn., Sporting Alert — De’Aaron Fox set the all-time single-game freshman scoring record for an NCAA Tournament game with 39 points to lead second seed Kentucky to an 86-75 victory over UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday night.
“I scored like the first 8 points of the game, and after that I was like you know it’s going to be a good night for me,” Fox said.
The freshman guard, who was scoring a career-high, shot 13 of 20 from the field and made 13 of his 15 free throws, while adding four assists for the Wildcats (32-5) to secure a berth in the South Regional final.
“We really picked it up defensively,” Fox said. “That’s why we won. Not because of our scoring.
“That team averages like 90 points a game, and we held them to … 15 less than their average.”
Malik Monk made four 3-pointers and scored 21 points, while Dominique Hawkins hit 4-of-5 shots from the field and connected on 3-for-4 from long range for Kentucky, which shot 49.2-percent as a team from the floor.
“All I did at halftime was say: `Guys. Are you watching this game?’ and they said yeah,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said. “I said; `Ok good. You know we are playing through De’Aaron Fox.
“The rest of you take a back seat and play off of him.”
Freshman TJ Leaf and Isaac Hamilton each scored 17 points for UCLA, with Leaf also adding seven rebounds and Hamilton grabbing five boards.
Bryce Alford scored 13 points and Lonzo Ball ended with 10 points and eight assists in perhaps his last college game for the Bruins (31-5), who trailed 36-33 at halftime.
As a team, UCLA shot 52.7-percent from the field, but was unable to outscore the Wildcats.
“We just got beat by a very good team that played very, very well tonight,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said.
Kentucky will now take on the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the South Regional final Sunday.