Kent State falls to UCLA, 97-80, in NCAA Tournament
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — TJ Leaf scored 23 points, Thomas Welsh added 16 and UCLA pulled away late for a 97-80 victory over Kent State on Friday night in the NCAA Tournament South Region.
UCLA (30-4) jumped out to a 14-point lead in the opening minutes, only to have its defensive issues rise up again. The third-seeded Bruins had numerous breakdowns and let Kent State claw back into it by halftime, eventually stretching the lead midway through the second half.
Lonzo Ball and Aaron Holiday each had 15 points for UCLA, which will face No. 6 seed Cincinnati in the second round on Sunday.
Kent State (22-14) appeared shell shocked in its first NCAA Tournament since 2008, falling into a deep early hole. The Golden Flashes, who beat the top three seeds in the MAC Tournament, showed a bit of resiliency by fighting back, keeping the mighty Bruins close until late.
Jaylin Walker had 23 points and Jimmy Hall Jr. added 20 for Kent State.
Kent State will lose seniors Hall and guard Deon Edwin, but have a strong foundation returning from an NCAA Tournament team.