Fox scored a career-high 39 points as Kentucky beat UCLA 86-75 Friday night in a showdown between two of college basketball's goliaths for a spot in the South Regional final.
The Shockers are not the Bruins, but a repeat of that type of defensive effort should be enough to get Kentucky past UCLA and into the Elite Eight for the sixth time in eight years in front of what will be a very pro-Kentucky crowd.
Kentucky guard De'Aaron Fox and UCLA guard Aaron Holiday chase a loose ball in the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament South Regional semifinal game Friday, March 24, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn.
De'Aaron Fox scored a career-high 39 points for Kentucky (32-5), which will play top-seeded North Carolina on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four next weekend in Glendale, Ariz. UCLA also has three wins against Top 25 teams, while Kentucky has four wins, but Kentucky played more ranked teams in the 2016-17. Monk made four of his first five shots (including two of two from three-point range) and scoring 10 points before the first television timeout. He was named a Naismith Player of the Year finalist and averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game.
The UCLA-Kentucky victor faces the victor of North Carolina vs. Butler in the Elite Eight on Sunday. UCLA finished 15 points below its season average, turning the ball over 13 times after committing only nine in its first two NCAA Tournament games.
UCLA freshman forward T.J. Leaf said, "I mean, it's huge".
John Calipari has plenty of smudges on his NCAA Tournament coaching resume.
However, Fox and Monk were simply too strong down the stretch. Adebayo didn't score his first bucket until he threw down a dunk with 3:15 remaining. During that contest, UCLA won 97-92 in a back-and-forth affair.
The combined fast-break points could nearly be counted on one hand (UCLA four, United Kingdom two).
Monk followed Fox with 21 points, scoring 14 of those in the second half. If Monk weren't scoring 20a game, we'd probably be talking a lot more about Fox. Third-seeded UCLA (31-5) couldn't come close to matching that in the sequel despite shooting 52.7 percent from the field. "Today, all I did at halftime is say, 'Guys, are you watching this game?' They said, 'Yeah.' 'OK, good, then you know we're playing through De'Aaron Fox".
"In the first game, we were really fast, but we were impatient".
Fox was picking up full court on the second possession - it wasn't a full-on press, but just enough to disrupt Ball and not allow him to get comfortable. The top prospect hit four of 10 field goals for for 10 points along with eight assists and four turnovers. Adebayo leads in rebounds with 7.8 while Fox leads in assists with 4.8 and in steals with 1.4 per game.
It had the makings of a classic offense-first show, one that might replicate the teams' first meeting early in the season. Fox, who finished with 39 points on 13-of-20 shooting, more than proved his chops as one of the best prospects in the country primed to make a splash in the National Basketball Association.
Now it is on to play North Carolina, a team United Kingdom beat in December when Malik Monk had 47 points. Kentucky made 10 3-pointers to make up for the lack of scoring in the post. We'll prepare for them, do the best we can and we know we got a tall order ahead of us.