When Kentucky met UCLA on a neutral court in Chicago one year ago, the Wildcats turned the game into a blowout from the opening tip. Kentucky scored 24 points before the Bruins could get a bucket, and entered halftime with a 41-7 advantage on their way to lopsided victory.
UCLA got its revenge on Thursday night. Behind a balanced scoring attacked led by a big game from sophomore center Thomas Welsch (21 point, 11 rebounds), the Bruins coasted to a 87-77 win over No. 1 Kentucky. Not bad for a team that entered this game 4-3 overall.
The only lead of the night for Kentucky was at 2-0. Along the way, UCLA exposed some weaknesses with Kentucky and showed they're better than the team that lost to Monmouth in their season opener.
UCLA packed the paint all night, daring Kentucky to shoot over them. The Wildcats shot 37.9 percent from the field and 8-for-25 from three-point range, with several of the makes coming too late.
Offensively, UCLA pounded a young Kentucky front line that lost Marcus Lee early in the game to a head injury.
Here's what we learned in UCLA's victory:
1. UCLA's veteran big men owned Kentucky's freshmen
This isn't the same Kentucky team as last season. A year ago, the Wildcats started two 7-footers (Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein) and a 6'10 power forward (Trey Lyles) on the front line, with the massive Dakari Johnson coming off the bench. This year? It's two skinny big men in Skal Labissiere and Marcus Lee (who left this game early with a head injury) and 17-year-old Australian Isaac Humphries.
The point is, Kentucky's biggest strength -- its talented front court depth -- has turned into its biggest weakness. UCLA proved that definitively.
There was nothing Labissiere or Humphries could do about 7-foot sophomore Thomas Welsch and senior Tony Parker. The Bruins' big men were able to establish deep post position all night. Kentucky's front line simply wasn't big enough to handle them.
It was a particularly rough night for Labissiere, who finished with only six points and one rebound. He's expected to be a top five pick in the next NBA draft, but it's clear he still has a long way to go. Kentucky's other bigs didn't look much better.
2. Kentucky's guards struggle to make plays
Tyler Ulis played through an elbow injury on Wednesday night, but he struggled shooting the ball. Ulis finished 2-for-12 from the field. He added nine assists, but Kentucky needed more offense from its backcourt with its big men struggling.
Jamal Murray did most of his damage when the game was already out of hand to finish with 17 points, five rebounds.
Isaiah Briscoe was a lone bright spot for John Calipari's team, finishing with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
3. Prince Ali threw down one of the three best dunks this year