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Third-seeded UCLA races past Cincinnati

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- If this is indeed the road to the Final Four for UCLA, the Bruins will look back on their Sunday game as the one they had to find a way to win before they could challenge college basketball's bluebloods for the national championship.

Lonzo Ball posted 18 points, nine assists and seven rebounds to help third-seeded UCLA advance to the Sweet 16 with a 79-67 victory over sixth-seeded Cincinnati in a South Regional game at the Golden 1 Center.

The Bruins will face second-seeded Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday in Memphis, Tenn. UCLA, which beat the Wildcats earlier this season at Rupp Arena, could face North Carolina in the Elite Eight and Kansas in the Final Four.

RELATED: See images from the second round of March Madness

45 PHOTOS
Inside the second round of March Madness, 2017
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Inside the second round of March Madness, 2017
Mar 16, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; General view of a March Madness basketball prior to the game between the Maryland Terrapins and the Xavier Musketeers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers forward Elijah Macon (45) and forward Nathan Adrian (11) pressure Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Bonzie Colson (35) in the second half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. West Virginia won 83-71. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers forward Elijah Macon (45) reacts after defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. West Virginia won 83-71. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Matt Ryan (4) reacts after a loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. West Virginia won 83-71. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; The West Virginia Mountaineers bench reacts in the second half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. West Virginia won 83-71. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers guard Tarik Phillip (12) shoots against Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Bonzie Colson (35) in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 18: Vitto Brown #30 of the Wisconsin Badgers and Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats go after a rebound during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 18, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 18: Josh Hart #3 of the Villanova Wildcats drives to the basket against Ethan Happ #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 18, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 18: Teammates Bronson Koenig #24 and Zak Showalter #3 of the Wisconsin Badgers try to steal the ball from Eric Paschall #4 of the Villanova Wildcats during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 18, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 18: Donte DiVincenzo #10 of the Villanova Wildcats reacts after a play against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 18, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 18: Head coach Jay Wright of the Villanova Wildcats walks off the court after being defeated by the Wisconsin Badgers 65-62 during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 18, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Mar 18, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Wisconsin Badgers forward Nigel Hayes (10) reacts in the second half against the Villanova Wildcats during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
March 18, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Northwestern Wildcats forward Vic Law (4) reacts during the 79-73 loss against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
March 18, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Killian Tillie (33) reacts during the 79-79 victory against the Northwestern Wildcats in the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
March 18, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Nigel Williams-Goss (5) shoots against Northwestern Wildcats forward Vic Law (4) during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
March 18, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Nigel Williams-Goss (5) reacts after he scores a basket against Northwestern Wildcats forward Vic Law (4) during the first half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18: Trevon Bluiett #5 of the Xavier Musketeers follows through on his shot against the Florida State Seminoles in the second half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18: Xavier Rathan-Mayes #22 of the Florida State Seminoles shoots against Malcolm Bernard #11 of the Xavier Musketeers in the second half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18: Sean O'Mara #54 of the Xavier Musketeers shoots against Jarquez Smith #23 of the Florida State Seminoles in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18: Michael Ojo #50 of the Florida State Seminoles fights for the ball against Trevon Bluiett #5 and Kaiser Gates #22 of the Xavier Musketeers in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 18: Tyler Lewis #1 of the Butler Bulldogs dribbles the ball while being guarded by Antwain Johnson #2 of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in the second half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 18, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonthan Daniel/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 18: Antwain Johnson #2 of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders attempts a shot while being guarded by Avery Woodson #0 of the Butler Bulldogs in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 18, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonthan Daniel/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 18: Aldonis Foote #45 of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders walks off the court after losing to the Butler Bulldogs 74-65 during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 18, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 18: Avery Woodson #0 and Kelan Martin #30 of the Butler Bulldogs celebrate after beating the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 74-65 during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 18, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 18: JaCorey Williams #22 of the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders walks off the court after losing to the Butler Bulldogs 74-65 during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 18, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 18: Allonzo Trier #35 of the Arizona Wildcats attempts a layup defended by Dane Pineau #22 of the St. Mary's Gaels during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 18: Tanner Krebs #00 of the St. Mary's Gaels is defended by Rawle Alkins #1 of the Arizona Wildcats as Head coach Sean Miller looks on during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 18: Lauri Markkanen #10 of the Arizona Wildcats is defended by Evan Fitzner #21 of the St. Mary's Gaels during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 18: Calvin Hermanson #24 of the St. Mary's Gaels attempts a lay up against the Arizona Wildcats during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 18: The Arizona Wildcats react against the St. Mary's Gaels during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MARCH 18: Kadeem Allen #5 of the Arizona Wildcats attempts a shot defended by Evan Fitzner #21 of the St. Mary's Gaels during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena on March 18, 2017 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
March 18, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Arizona Wildcats center Dusan Ristic (14) reacts with guard Kadeem Allen (5) and guard Rawle Alkins (1) against the Saint Mary's Gaels during the second half in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18: Kasey Hill #0 of the Florida Gators drives against London Perrantes #32 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18: Devin Robinson #1 of the Florida Gators looks to pass against Mamadi Diakite #25 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18: The mascots for the Florida Gators and Virginia Cavaliers perform in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18: Jack Salt #33 of the Virginia Cavaliers goes up for a shot against Kevarrius Hayes #13 of the Florida Gators in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 18: Gorjok Gak #12 of the Florida Gators dunks against Jack Salt #33 and Marial Shayok #4 of the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Amway Center on March 18, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Florida players Canyon Barry, left, and Gorjok Gak celebrate after a 65-39 win against Virginia during the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 18, 2017. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
Florida's Chris Chiozza, left, and Devin Robinson, right, celebrate after a 65-39 win against Virginia during the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, March 18, 2017. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 18: Isaac Haas #44 of the Purdue Boilermakers dunks the ball while being guarded by Solomon Young #33 of the Iowa State Cyclones in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 18, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 18: Isaac Haas #44 of the Purdue Boilermakers blocks a shot attempt by Darrell Bowie #10 of the Iowa State Cyclones in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 18, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 18: Deonte Burton #30 of the Iowa State Cyclones dribbles the ball whlie being guarded by P.J. Thompson #11 of the Purdue Boilermakers in the first half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 18, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 18: Vince Edwards #12 of the Purdue Boilermakers dunks the ball past Darrell Bowie #10 of the Iowa State Cyclones in the second half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 18, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - MARCH 18: Vince Edwards #12 of the Purdue Boilermakers handles the ball while being guarded by Nazareth Mitrou-Long #15 of the Iowa State Cyclones in the second half during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center on March 18, 2017 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Bryce Alford broke out of his shooting slump to score 16 points on 5-of-13 shooting with four 3-pointers for UCLA (31-4). Alford was 10 of 40 from the field in the team's last four games. TJ Leaf and Thomas Welsh posted 11 points and seven rebounds apiece and Isaac Hamilton added 10 points.

Jarron Cumberland led Cincinnati (30-6) with 15 points, while Kevin Johnson and Jacob Evans scored 13 points apiece. Gary Clark had 11 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

Going into the game, UCLA led the nation in scoring at 90.6 points per contest. Cincinnati ranked fourth in scoring defense, holding opponents to 60.8 points.

The Bruins knew the Bearcats would be bigger, stronger and tougher than the Kent State squad that outrebounded them in the opening round. The Bearcats knew the Bruins would put the pedal to the floor and try to push the pace.

The tempo worked to UCLA's advantage as the Bruins outscored the Bearcats 8-2 over the first 2:08, but Cincinnati settled in, took its time at the offensive end and effectively slowed the game down. Johnson made two 3-pointers as part of an 8-0 run that gave the Bearcats a 14-8 lead.

Cincinnati went up 19-13 on a jumper by Cumberland, but UCLA battled back to take a 27-26 lead on a 3-pointer by Ball. The Bearcats reclaimed the lead moments later and carried a 33-30 advantage into the halftime break.

The Bruins picked up the pace early in the second period, starting the half with a 10-3 run to take a 40-36 lead on a 3-pointer by Isaac Hamilton. Evans converted a three-point play to put the Bearcats back on top, but the lead wouldn't last long.

Ball drained back-to-back 3-pointers and Alford added another, fueling a 9-0 run that put UCLA ahead 55-47 with 12:30 remaining. The Bruins went up by 10 on a transition dunk by Ike Anigbogu and extended their lead to 12 on a layup by Ball.

The Bearcats got within seven on a basket by Cumberland with 4:28 to go, but two dunks by Leaf pushed the lead back to double digits and started the celebration for UCLA.

NOTES: UCLA freshman PG Lonzo Ball was named a finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year Award on Sunday along with Frank Mason III of Kansas, Villanova's Josh Hart and Purdue's Caleb Swanigan. ... Freshman F Ike Anigbogu returned after missing UCLA's first-round game with a sprained foot, an injury he suffered in practice Tuesday. ... In Saturday's media session, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said UCLA freshman PG Lonzo Ball is "probably the best passer since Jason Kidd or Magic Johnson," adding that Ball is "going to be an NBA All-Star." ... Cincinnati was 13-0 this season when shooting 50 percent or better. The Bearcats shot 44.8 percent Sunday.

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