Published: Sat, April 01, 2017
National | By Traci Kelley

Fox scores career-high 39 points to lead Wildcats past UCLA


The Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament rolled on Friday, with four more teams punching their tickets to the Elite Eight.

"Are you watching this game?' and they said yeah", Kentucky head coach John Calipari said.

Malik Monk - a Lepanto native who played at Bentonville High School - scored 21 points for Kentucky, and Dominique Hawkins added 11. Ball finished with 10 points and eight assists in the loss as he was overshadowed by Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox (39 points). That wasn't a problem with Kentucky fans. Even more than that, the point guard matchup between freshmen phenoms Fox and Lonzo Ball promised to be an incredible, back and forth battle. Ball had 10 points, shooting 1 for 6 from 3-point range, as well as eight assists and four turnovers. Isaac Hamilton and T.J. Leaf each scored 17 points for the Bruins. Ball leads the country in assists (7.6 per game) for third-seeded UCLA (31-4), which boasts an offense ranked second nationally in KenPom's adjusted efficiency (124.1 points per 100 possessions).

The highly-anticipated contest lived up to its billing in an electric first half that was reminiscent of a tennis match given how quickly the teams bounced back and forth across the court.

Monk also started scoring. The SEC player of the year had only seven points in the first half, but he hit four of his first five shots, including a pair of three-pointers, within the first five minutes of the second.

Monk, the Southeastern Conference player of the year had only seven points in the first half.

Thomas Welsh hit a short jumper, then Bryce Alford hit a 3 to pull UCLA within 50-49. Ball's Bruins were eliminated by Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

All year, UCLA has been the most exciting team in college basketball, but after Friday night, Fox, Monk and Kentucky are the most exciting team left in the NCAA Tournament.

Nigel Hayes had given the Badgers (27-10) a 2-point lead with 4 seconds left on two free throws.

Zak Showalter just hit an off-balance three-pointer off his right foot for Wisconsin, tying the game at 72-all with 2.5 seconds left to cap a late comeback and force the overtime.

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The Gators (27-8) will play SC on Sunday in an all-Southeastern Conference regional final at Madison Square Garden. "The character on this team, how they were as teammates, the unselfishness was so fun to watch, and they were so fun to coach". Luke Maye put up 16 points and 12 rebounds for his first career double-double.

Fox dove for a loose ball in the second half when Ball didn't get on the floor.

He outplayed Ball, who finished with 10 points on 4 of 10 shooting before announcing he had played his final game for UCLA.

Fox did what he does best, making plays in transition and attacking the lane with explosive burst that will make him a coveted National Basketball Association prospect, just like the other freshman guards on the floor on Friday.

The Tar Heels, who reached the Elite Eight for the 27th time, connected on 54.4 percent of their shots, while Butler was at 43.5 percent.

SC 70, BAYLOR 50: Sindarius Thornwell scored 24 points and seventh-seeded SC cruised in the East Regional semifinals, giving the Bears' their worst NCAA Tournament loss.

The best highlights from the winners-North Carolina, South Carolina, UCLA/Kentucky and Wisconsin/Florida-can be found below.

Kentucky guard De'Aaron Fox drives against UCLA guard Aaron Holiday in the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament South Regional semifinal game Friday, March 24, 2017, in Memphis, Tenn.

PJ Dozier added 17 points for the Gamecocks, Chris Silva had 13 and Kotsar 12.

"If they play like they did the second half, they can't" be stopped, said Purdue coach Matt Painter, after the Boilermakers were outscored 51-26 over the final 20 minutes of a 98-66 loss to the Jayhawks on Thursday.

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