Coming into this evening's game with Pacific, most level-headed Bruins knew that our team would be facing a difficult test. With the continuing absence of Matt Carlino due to the aftereffects of a concussion, and the sprained ankle of Malcolm Lee keeping him out of tonight's contest, the Bruins had only 8 players available to play just 24 hours after defeating Pepperdine. The quick turnaround itself has posed a problem for the Bruins in recent years; as DCBruins pointed out this morning, the team went 2-8 last year in games after having less than 2 days of rest. Despite fatigue and some foul issues with the frontcourt, the Bruins were able to hold onto a 16-point halftime lead and defeat the Pacific Tigers by the score of 57-44, booking a trip to New York in the process.
After a slow opening 4 minutes, UCLA found a groove and took command of the game. While the team pulled together several strings of defensive stops, Reeves Nelson took care of the offense, scoring 17 points in the half on 8-9 shooting. The Bruins ended the half on a 15-6 run, their 40-24 halftime lead capped off by a buzzer-beating 3 pointer by Tyler Honeycutt. The level of energy expended by the depleted Bruins team showed in the offensive side of the game in the second half. It took over 4 minutes before Lazeric Jones scored the first UCLA points of the half; with 8 minutes remaining in the second half, the Bruins had scored only 7 points.
Though his offensive numbers slowed in the second half, Reeves Nelson had one of the best games of his time in Westwood to date, taking his second double-double in two days, taking in 14 rebounds while leading the Bruins with 21 points (tying a career high). Not to be outdone, Tyler Honeycutt also finished with a double-double, scoring 15 points and a team-leading 15 rebounds. Lazeric Jones had another competent game running the point, finishing with 9 points and 5 assists. Tyler Lamb started in place of Malcolm Lee and logged 28 minutes, but did little to fill the boxscore (2 points, 2 assists, 4 fouls). Though he started tonight at Center, Joshua Smith lost significant playing time due to foul issues, playing just 13 minutes while picking up 4 fouls and scoring 3 points without a rebound. Brendan Lane filled in during Smith's absenses, blocking 4 shots while scoring 5 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in 24 minutes of play. Jerime Anderson continued to prove the doubters right regarding his ability to lead an offense, but to his credit, he has played through those struggles to show a strong effort and strong play on defense.
With a shallow pool of players, particularly in the frontcourt, foul issues have the possibility to derail this team in any particular game. We saw how that can transpire tonight, with Smith, Lane and Stover all accruing 2 fouls in the first half. Smith in partiucular missed significant portions of the game due to foul trouble; in the first half after committing his second foul, and at the 7-minute mark of the second half after picking up his fourth. Lane and Stover were able to keep themselves out of trouble in the second half, and Reeves kept an entirely clean sheet tonight. However, the foul situation, and how the players and CBH are able to handle this issue while having only 4 men available in the frontcourt will be something to keep an eye on.
For all the fatigue that must have been weighing down the players tonight, their defense did not suffer from the drain. Thanks to an aggressive mindset from the start, the Bruins held Pacific to 25% shooting from the field, and 22% in the second half, when the struggle of the Bruins to make shots gave the Tigers an opportunity to claw their way back into the game. While the second half was far from pretty, the team not only found a way to win under difficult circumstances, but even preserve most of a comfortable margin down the stretch.
With tonight's victory, the Bruins have secured a spot in the Preseason NIT, playing the winner of tomorrow's Villanova/Boston University matchup at Madison Square Garden next Wednesday evening.
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