No. 16 UCLA and No. 13 Kentucky will look to extend their respective winning streaks at the other’s expense on Saturday in the CBS Sports Classic in New York.
The Bruins (9-2) enter the game at Madison Square Garden with six straight victories, including Wednesday night’s 87-60 wire-to-wire romp over No. 20 Maryland.
While pleased with the outcome, UCLA coach Mick Cronin said he isn’t going to let that result change his perception of his team’s potential.
“I don’t get caught up in that. I try not to get ahead of myself,” Cronin said. “You guys asked me my first year if I was ready to just worry about rebuilding, then we won seven in a row and lost the Pac-12 title at the buzzer.
“It’s one game. You lose five in a row in February, (Wednesday is) not going to matter. I don’t get ahead of myself. Injuries happen, pandemics happen.”
Jaylen Clark scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half to help the Bruins bolt to a 30-point lead late in the opening stanza.
David Singleton made his first seven shots to finish with a season-high 18 points. Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Adem Bona each had 14 points for UCLA, which shot a robust 55.6 percent from the floor (35 of 63) and enjoyed a 16-4 advantage in turnovers.
“Our goal was to play great defense, hold them to one shot, take care of the ball,” Cronin said. “If we take care of the ball, we have plenty of guys who can score. Talent isn’t an issue for us; all we have to do is not turn it over. (On Wednesday), our mind was on defense for the first time in a long time. It’s the hardest thing, to keep things grounded.”
The Wildcats (7-2) have won their past four games since losing 88-72 to then-No. 2 Gonzaga on Nov. 20.
Reigning national player of the year Oscar Tshiebwe recorded his fifth double-double of the season on Saturday after scoring a season-high 28 points to go along with 12 rebounds in Kentucky’s 69-59 win over Yale.
“We have an advantage, and the kid’s name is Oscar Tshiebwe. You got to throw it to him,” Wildcats coach John Calipari said. “If you’re driving and he’s open, don’t shoot it, throw it to him. The crazy thing is if he can’t shoot it, he’ll throw it back to you, which he does.”
Tshiebwe quickly turned his attention to facing UCLA at MSG.
“I am excited. I never win at Madison Square Garden, so I have to fight this time,” Tshiebwe said. “(The Bruins) are a good team, and we are a good team too and I respect them, but I have no fear of them. We are going to go fight, and whoever fights the most is the team who is going to win.”
Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves finished with 10 points, marking his eighth double-digit scoring performance in nine games.
–Field Level Media