UCLA lost to Oklahoma, 75-65, in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis (stats). The Bruins didn't lose because of poor defense or poor rebounding, but it was foul trouble, poor free throw shooting and a bad mid-first half stretch with most of the starters on the bench that did the Bruins in. UCLA basically avoided foul trouble in the first half and controlled Buddy Hield, who eventually led all scorers with 24 points but had only 7 in the first half. In the second half, however, Parker drew his fourth foul early and Norman Powell drew his fourth later in the half, and that was the end of the game. Oklahoma stretched the lead to double digits as the Bruins tried to unsuccessfully claw their way back by fouling.
Oklahoma hit the first two buckets of the game but the Bruins went on a 9-0 run. Playing man-to-man for the first eight minutes, the Bruins were up 13-8 at the second TV time-out led by Bryce Alford's 7 points. The Bruins accomplished the basics: good defense, no foul trouble, running on transition, staying even on the boards and keeping Buddy Hield under control.
Then Alford went to the dreaded platoon. With Thomas Welsh, Noah Allen and Wannah Bail (the +/- at the half for these three is horrible) in the game together without Bryce, the Sooners went on an 11-0 run. Noah broke the string with 2 FT's. The starters were back in at the 6:46 mark, but could not regain the momentum. Kevon Looney worked hard on the boards, but couldn't finish. He was 1-9 from the field and 3-6 from the line, but led both teams with 8 rebounds. Isaac Hamilton was 0-6. Though it didn't show in the stats, Tony Parker was solid defensively.
At the half, the Bruins trailed 32-27. They were only 6-14 from the line and 10-33 from the field including 1-7 from three. The Bruins were roughly even with the Sooners statistically except for shooting, FG% and FT%. Powell had 3 fouls including two reach-ins and a questionable charge (the bucket would have counted). At this point, if they lose the game, it won't be because of defense or that Oklahoma is better.
The Bruins tied the score up 34-34 behind Bryce' hot shooting, but Parker picked up his fourth foul at the 17:30 mark trying to bull his way into the lane after collecting a nice long rebound. The game looked to be lost at that point as Oklahoma went on ten point run, but Looney willed the Bruins back into it on the offensive glass. Led by Looney and Bryce, the Bruins went on a 24-13 run to lead 48-45 at the 12 minute TV timeout.
Powell then collected his fourth foul, and once again, the Sooners went on a run, 11-0. The starters came back at the six minute mark, but played a sagging zone that allowed Hield to shoot freely, and could never quite get back in it.
My quick takeaways:
- The free throw shooting is horrendous: 9-21 for 43%. Looney was 4-9. He's going to get to the line a lot this year. They will be lost possessions if he doesn't finish and hit free throws. That said, you have to love this kid: 16 points and 15 rebounds and the workman-like/do-all-the-dirty work attitude.
- The Bruins came back in the second half and looked to be on the verge of breaking it open, but after an offensive goal tending call on Looney on a ball that was going in, the game turned around again. So it would be hard to say that the game was lost in 4 minutes in the first half when Welsh/Allen/Bail were in with Hamilton at the point without Bryce, but that is a disastrous combination that I thought SAlford would abandon against high major competition.
- This team cannot survive foul trouble - at all.
- The defense was good today. The major exception was a stretch in zone with Welsh in for Parker who had foul trouble. There was basically no defense in the lane.
- Bryce had 19 points. He can score. On the other hand, Hamilton was 3-13.