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UCLA vs. Kentucky: 3 things we learned in the Bruins’ impressive win at Rupp

For the second year in a row, the Bruins have upset Kentucky in December.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA-Kentucky was hyped as one of the most entertaining matchups of the season. Two elite offenses with freshmen stars on both sides and coaches who love to push the tempo. The game delivered on its promise from the opening tip, with UCLA coming away with an impressive 97-92 victory in Rupp Arena.

This was a true team effort from the Bruins in a victory that snaps Kentucky’s 42-game home winning streak. Six UCLA players scored in double-figures, led by Isaac Hamilton’s 19 points. An efficient shooting performance buoyed the balanced scoring effort, with UCLA shooting 53 percent from the field on the afternoon.

After a frantic first half where the two teams combined for 94 points, UCLA was in control for most of the final 20 minutes. Kentucky guard Malik Monk (24 points) did everything he could keep the Wildcats in it, but John Calipari’s team simply couldn’t get enough stops down the stretch.

This wasn’t the best game for UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, but the freshman point guard hit a deep stepback three at the end of the first half that helped get him going after the break.

Ball finished with 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds on the afternoon. Fellow freshman T.J. Leaf was the bigger story. Leaf competed hard against a physically imposing Kentucky front line to finish with 17 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.

You won’t see many college basketball games as much fun as this one. Here’s three things we learned:

UCLA is more than the Lonzo Ball Show

Ball received most of the attention during UCLA’s undefeated start, and rightfully so. The freshman point guard entered the game leading the country in assists while also shooting 47 percent from three-point range. Ball is going to be an NBA lottery pick for a reason, but it’s clear UCLA is much more than a one-man show.

The Bruins are deep and talented at every position on the floor. They have four guards who move the ball and can break down a defense off the dribble. They have three solid big men who can score inside and out while controlling the glass. UCLA’s full complement of talent was on display in Lexington and it was undeniably impressive.

The Bruins look like the best offensive team in the country. If they can do that to Kentucky, does anyone have a shot at slowing them down?

De’Aaron Fox made himself some money

The most intriguing subplot heading into the game was the point guard matchup between two one-and-done freshmen. Ball was the player that everyone was talking about over the first month of the season, but Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox proved he’s also a legitimate lottery pick with a great effort on Saturday.

Fox outplayed Ball throughout the afternoon, showing off his blazing speed, dogged defense and impressive playmaking instincts along the way. Fox finished with 20 points and eight assists and did well to slow down Ball with his defense.

John Calipari has a long tradition of great point guards. Fox is the next player in that lineage.

Who needs defense, anyway?

Earlier this week, Cincinnati and Iowa State went into overtime tied at 50 in Ames. Both of those teams should be a factor in March, but there was no question a game like UCLA-Kentucky was much more entertaining. The pace of this game was incredible, with both teams constantly on the counter-attack whenever the other side scored. Putting two great offenses on the floor against each other was a terrific advertisement for the sport.

College basketball needs more games like this. Props to both programs for this home-and-home series.