UCLA vs. Kent State: Score and Twitter Reaction from March Madness 2017

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistMarch 18, 2017

SACRAMENTO, CA - MARCH 17: Lonzo Ball #2 of the UCLA Bruins is defended by Mitch Peterson #13 of the Kent State Golden Flashes during the first round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Golden 1 Center on March 17, 2017 in Sacramento, California.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

If the UCLA Bruins want to make good on their status as title contenders, they'll need to churn out more complete efforts than the one they brought to the table Friday night in a 97-80 win over the Kent State Golden Flashes. 

Despite the wide double-digit margin, the Bruins looked lethargic at times as they allowed the Mid-American Conference champions to drill nine threes and mount a 15-6 edge on the offensive glass. 

Those tallies kept the Golden Flashes within striking distance for the majority of the second half, and it wasn't until there were under six minutes remaining that the Bruins finally put thoughts of an upset to bed. 

For all of their shortcomings on defense, though, UCLA continued to blitz the opposition with an offense that was equal parts efficient and explosive. 

In his first career NCAA tournament game, point guard Lonzo Ball posted 15 points (6-of-7 shooting), four rebounds and three assists, and he didn't wait long to showcase his impressive hops: 

The Washington Post's Tim Bontemps was particularly impressed with Ball's skilled shot-making in the latter stages of the second half: 

Ball also got the Bruins going in transition, as the following sequence that was punctuated by a T.J. Leaf hammer illustrated: 

Speaking of Leaf, Ball's freshman counterpart stuffed the stat sheet with a team-high 23 points (8-of-12 shooting) and six boards.

Isaac Hamilton (14 points) and Aaron Holiday (15 points) also played prominent roles in carrying the Bruins to the next round—which is surprisingly devoid of mid-majors, per Yahoo Sports' Jeff Eisenberg: 

However, just because head coach Steve Alford's squad came out on top doesn't mean he'll be thrilled with how it performed. 

As USA Today's Dan Wolken noted, the Bruins defense—like in most of the regular season—was invisible: 

Next up for the Bruins are the sixth-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats, who defeated the 11th-seeded Kansas State Wildcats 75-61 in Round of 64 play. 

Compared to Friday's win over the Golden Flashes, that showdown figures to be more strenuous for the Bruins from every angle. 

Although UCLA picked its spots and exploited Kent State's porous defense time and again Friday night, the Bearcats wield one of the NCAA's stingiest attacks. Cincinnati ranks 11th overall in KenPom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency. 

And after Cincinnati blitzed Kansas State to the tune of 62.8 percent shooting from the field and 45.5 percent shooting from three, UCLA's 74th-ranked defense will need to be far more focused in order to avoid an upset Sunday. 

 

Postgame Reaction

Following the win, all of the focus was on Ball's bruised right hip. 

However, he assured fans at home that the injury was not serious and that it didn't hinder his performance in the second half, as March Madness TV documented on Twitter: 

Southern California News Group's Thuc Nhi Nguyen provided some brief soundbites from Ball and head coach Steve Alford that reinforced the injury wasn't worth worrying about: 

"I'm fine," Ball added, per the Daily Bruin's Matt Cummings. "I got up. I finished the game."

"We were obviously very efficient on offense and at times were efficient on defense, just had some lapses there," Alford said, per the Associated Press' John Marshall. 

On the flip side, Kent State head coach Rob Senderoff praised his team's fight. 

"Couldn't be more proud of our guys in terms of how we fought the entire game and during the season we had this year," he said, per Marshall. 

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