The Hawaiian islands have brought together two of college basketball’s most storied programs.
The teams with the most national championships in NCAA history meet Tuesday when No. 5 UCLA faces No. 20 Kentucky in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
UCLA has won a record 11 national titles, including a 92-85 victory over Kentucky in the 1975 championship game. The Wildcats are right behind with seven championships of their own. The teams have combined to make 29 Final Four appearances.
This is the first time the schools have met since Kentucky beat the Bruins 52-50 on Dec. 6, 2003. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 6-3.
UCLA (2-0) rolled into the semifinals with an 88-63 victory over host Chaminade in Monday night’s quarterfinals. The Bruins, who lost 73-57 to Florida in last year’s national championship game, haven’t missed a beat early this season, shooting better than 50 percent in each of their victories.
“Overall this was a good win, but we have to get ready to face a very tough opponent in 20 hours,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said, looking at his watch. “No. Nineteen hours, 55 minutes.”
Arron Afflalo scored 11 points during UCLA’s 17-2 run to open Monday’s contest and finished with 25 as the Bruins cruised past the Division II Silverswords.
Afflalo—who scored only nine points on 3-of-9 shooting in last Wednesday’s 82-69 season-opening victory over BYU—was 10-for-14 from the field, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range. Josh Shipp had 16 points and Darren Collison added 15 for the Bruins, who led by as many as 30 points during the rout.
“That’s what this tournament is about. You have to show the heart a team has,” Afflalo said. “I’m looking forward to it. Kentucky’s a great team.”
Kentucky (3-0) had to work harder to advance, getting past pesky DePaul 87-81 on Monday. Randolph Morris scored nine of the Wildcats’ final 11 points and finished with 20 to help Kentucky secure a victory.
“It all came within the flow of the game,” Morris said about his closing flurry. “When opportunities present themselves you have to seize those opportunities.”
Morris is averaging 16.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in the first three games and is part of a trio of juniors leading the Wildcats.
The Wildcats shot 57.1 percent, the first time they were better than 50 percent from the field since shooting 60.4 percent in an 80-78 win over then-No. 11 Tennessee on March 1, a span of nine games.
“When we get up on a team we haven’t sustained the intensity,” Kentucky guard Ramel Bradley said. “Give credit to DePaul, but we stayed poised and made some big stops. I thought we did an excellent job of responding the right way.”
Bradley and Joe Crawford are the other two juniors playing integral roles. Bradley is averaging 16.3 points and 4.3 assists while Crawford’s averages are 12.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.
Kentucky is 8-2 in the Maui Invitational, winning the championship in 1993. Its eight victories are tied for third-most all-time in the tournament. UCLA, making its third appearance, is 4-3.