LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky and UCLA will meet for the third time in NCAA Tournament history on Friday, and if the game follows suit with its predecessors, the winner could be in for a national title run.
It’s surprising the tournament history between the Wildcats and Bruins isn’t more extensive given the caliber of the programs. Kentucky leads the nation with 56 tournament appearances; UCLA is third with 46. UK has a nation-leading 123 tournament wins; UCLA is fourth with 101. Both programs appeared in 17 Final Fours.
But the golden number: UCLA is first with 11 NCAA championships. Kentucky is second with 8.
UCLA beat Kentucky in 1975 to cap its 10th national title. Kentucky beat UCLA in 1998 en route to national title No. 7. It’s a good omen for both programs heading into their third NCAA Tournament meeting at 9:39 p.m. ET on Friday in Memphis, Tenn.
Here’s a look back at the first two games.
1975: UCLA 92, Kentucky 85
The parting gift for legendary coach John Wooden was his 10th national championship. Wooden and the Bruins beat Kentucky in the national championship game in his last year as coach — a tenure that began in 1948.
The crowd at the San Diego Arena gave Wooden a 4-minute standing ovation when the game ended, according to a New York Times story from the game.
Wooden played 6 players in the game compared to the 10 Wildcats coach Joe B. Hall used. Four Bruins played all 40 minutes. They included Richard Washington, who scored 28 points; and Dave Meyers, who was second on the team with 24.
Kentucky’s Kevin Grevey, who was SEC Player of the Year that season, led all scorers with 34 points on 13 of 30 shooting.
1998: Kentucky 94, UCLA 68
The team met in the Sweet 16, as they will on Friday. Kentucky was a No. 2 seed, and the No. 6 seed Bruins were no match that day in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Five Wildcats reached double figures in scoring, led by Scott Padgett with 19. Jeff Sheppard added 16 points and Nazr Mohammed had 15. Kentucky held UCLA to 29 percent shooting. Kris Johnson had 18 for the Bruins and Toby Bailey had 16.
The Wildcats went on to beat Duke in the Elite Eight, Stanford in the Final Four and Utah for national championship No. 7. And as UCLA sent Wooden out with a championship in his last year as coach, Kentucky gave Tubby Smith a championship in his first year as coach.