BOZICH | Lonzo Ball is terrific, but is he better than Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox?
Lavar Ball has said that his son, Lonzo, is as talented as Steph Curry but will Ball be able to outplay Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox Friday night for UCLA?
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WDRB) – I understand that Lavar Ball is absolutely, positively convinced that his son, Lonzo, can do everything that Steph Curry does for the Golden State Warriors.
There's Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and Lonzo Ball, right?
I know that Ball believes that after his son’s college career ends following a one-and-done season at UCLA that a shoe company will have to pay Lonzo $1 billion to secure a product endorsement.
Or maybe it was a trillion. You can look it up.
I looked for Mr. Ball Thursday at FedEx Forum as his son and the Bruins prepared for their South Regional Sweet Sixteen game against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.
Didn’t find him.
Here’s the question I wanted to ask:
I know you believe your son is as talented as Steph Curry. But are you certain that he can outplay De’Aaron Fox?
“Everyone has (heard Mr. Ball chirping),” Fox said. “I can’t worry about that.
“We’ve definitely different players. His vision is ridiculous. I think I get to the basket better. I’m just trying to contain him. Just try to tip passes. He can make a special play seem easy. I’ll just try to limit those kind of things.”
“It’s a great matchup,” said UCLA guard Aaron Holiday. “Two point guards going at it. Obviously, they should be high in the (2017 NBA) draft, this upcoming draft. That should be a real good matchup.”
Understand this: Ball is terrific. But Fox has no reason to blush, duck or hide.
Did you see the savvy read that Fox made after he realized Wichita State had switched to a zone defense last Sunday when Kentucky won its second-round tournament game in Indianapolis?
Fox flashed through the Shockers’ defense so quickly and emphatically that Wichita coach Gregg Marshall abandoned the zone seconds after Fox delivered a powerful one-handed dunk. Wichita State is a solid defensive team, but Marshall realized he did not have a player who could consistently stay in front of Fox.
Guess which guy has been Kentucky’s leading scorer in five post-season games?
It’s Fox, averaging close to 20 points a game. He’s made nearly 55 percent of his shots, by attacking the rim and attempting only seven shots from distance.
The only smudge on his record has more turnovers (17) than assists (12). That’s not a wise formula for success against UCLA. But Fox has scored in double figures for 10 straight games. He’s been excellent, better than Ball at times.
“De’Aaron is a great player,” Ball said. “One of the best guards in the country, hands down. It’s a tough match-up. I’ve got to come ready to play because I know he is.”
“We thought he was awfully good when we were in Lexington is December,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “I think he’s just continued to get better …
“But he’s just such an elite skill set as a ball handler, and his speed and quickness to get by people, you just don’t see very often. He’s like a lot of them that are elite like he is. As they get older, it seems like they just get better.”
Here are the comparative numbers from the first time these two competed on the first Saturday in December.
Ball scored 14 points. Fox had 20. Ball made two shots from distance, but he launched eight. Fox was one for four. Ball delivered seven assists, but threw the ball away six times. Fox had more assists (nine), but fewer turnovers (two).
This was the statistic that mattered: UCLA won, 97-92, in Rupp Arena, a victory that confirmed that the Bruins were a legitimate Top 10 team.
Pace will be as significant as points Friday night. Fox and Kentucky will be better served by a game in the 70s than another game in the 90s. Fox is the guy who John Calipari will trust to set the proper pace.
Kentucky won’t run from running with the Bruins. But the Wildcats are a superior defensive team. Fox needs to exploit the gaps in how the Bruins guard. UCLA lost four games this season. They allowed at least 84 points in all four defeats as well as an average of more than 88 points while stumbling against Oregon, USC and Arizona (twice).
“This is going to be a track meet definitely,” Fox said. “We want to focus on our defense and try to not let the game get into the 90s.”
Fox can do that. He can outplay Lonzo Ball.
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