Madison Square Garden—No.16 Kentucky wasn’t fazed at all by the bright lights of NYC as it downs No.13 Kentucky 63-53, on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in the CBS Sports Classic.
It was their first appearance in Madison Square Garden since Dec. 2013, the Bruins (10-2) won their seventh consecutive victory since dropping a pair of games in Las Vegas in early November.
The Bruins have won four of their past five games against Kentucky and improved to 2-0 against the Wildcats, in games played at Madison Square Garden. Previously, UCLA had secured a 97-92 victory over Kentucky at the historic New York venue on Nov. 10, 2000.
Senior Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored 19-points and 12 rebounds to lead the Bruins. Jaylen Clark had four steals in the win. Clark finished the contest with 15 points and eight boards. Tyger Campbell chipped in 15 points to seal it for UCLA.
Jaquez Jr. was instrumental for the Bruins, particularly in the first half, when he scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds. UCLA went into the break with a 35-27 advantage.
“I looked up and saw there was 20 seconds left and we’re up like eight, nine,” Clark said. “It’s over.”
The Bruins limited the Cats (7-3) to just 32.8 % shooting from the court. UCLA forced 18 turnovers by Kentucky, including 12 in the first half.
UCLA used an 8-2 scoring run early in the first half to provide a 15-9 lead with just under 14 minutes to play. The Bruins never trailed the rest of the game after that, but the Wildcats did tie the game (40-40) with 14:25 to go in regulation.
“We know what we’re capable of if we defend and play with the toughness we played with this week,” said Mick Cronin, The Michael Price Family UCLA Men’s Head Basketball Coach. “We had a few more turnovers than we’re used to tonight, but we’re still plus-five in that category. We out-rebounded Kentucky by one. We have enough talent. You have to be able to defend the other team. It’s really hard to win when you give up 79, 80 points to ranked teams – good luck. It’s hard to get a lot of points on Kentucky, it just is.”
In the second half, the Wildcats made a run and the game got real physical on the blocks to the tune of players getting nicked up in the trenches.
The game got interesting when Kentucky’s Sahvir Wheeler made a jumper to get his team within two (55-53) with 4:31 left. They would be the Wildcats’ last points.
Campbell hit a tough floater in the lane and backup forward Mac Etienne and Clark each hit a free throw before Campbell scored on a driving layup to push the lead to 61-53. Clark’s steal and dunk sealed the contest.
Etienne, a New York native, also blocked Oscar Tshiebwe shot and grabbed five rebounds to help his foul-plagued team in front of friends, family and supporters. Tshiebwe’s 16 boards couldn’t give his team an advantage in that department after the Bruins grabbed one more rebound than the Wildcats.
A driving layup by Campbell with 42 seconds to play pushed UCLA ahead, 61-53.
“It just put an edge on our shoulder,” Jaquez said of the losses in Vegas. “We had a lot to prove this trip, we knew that we dropped two in Vegas and we knew we’re a much more capable team than we showed, and we were just on a mission to get better every single day and prepare for this, and just show the world what we can do.”
UCLA returns to action against UC Davis on Wednesday, Dec. 21. Game time in Pauley Pavilion presented by Wescom is set for 2 p.m. (PT). UCLA’s game against the Aggies will be televised by the Pac-12 Network. The radio broadcast will be available on AM 570.