UCLA well below its average of 90.2 points a game and just a point off its season low.
Maybe it was nerves or so many freshmen, but Kentucky led 36-33 at halftime after a first half that wasn’t close to the fastpaced pace expected.
By the second half, the Wildcats at least were running up and down the court.
Monk also started scoring. The Southeastern Conference player of the year had only seven points in the first half. He hit four of his first five shots, including a pair of 3s, within the first five minutes of the second. He scored off the fast break, and his second 3 with 15:52 left gave Kentucky a 50-44 lead.
Thomas Welsh hit a short jumper, then Bryce Alford hit a 3 to pull UCLA within 50-49. That was as close as the Bruins would get as Kentucky pushed its lead to 14 in the final couple minutes.
Six different Bruins averaged in double figures during the season, and four got there Friday. But Welsh fouled out with 5:58 left. The Bruins turned the ball over 13 times, and Kentucky outscored UCLA 14-2 off the mistakes.
Kentucky won despite not getting much from another freshman, Bam Adebayo. The 6-foot10 forward had been averaging a double-double during Kentucky’s winning streak, but he finally scored his lone bucket off a dunk with 3:17 left.
After the game, UCLA suffered another blow, although it wasn’t unexpected.
Ball announced that he had played his final game for the Bruins and would be entering the NBA draft.
Ball was widely expected to declare for the NBA draft after this season.
His father, LaVar Ball, has been especially vocal, declaring that the eldest of three hoops-playing brothers is better than NBA MVP Steph Curry.
Ball said he felt bad that he couldn’t carry his team’s seniors to another win in the NCAA Tournament.
He said UCLA simply lost to a good team.