Tonight's UCLA v. Louisiana Lafayette basketball game started with the announcement that Thomas Welsh was out due to illness and Prince Ali was out (presumably due to his left knee injury sustained in the Gonzaga game). So UCLA was undermanned, albeit against a ULL team that was 0-4 away from home this season (and a long way from home for this game).
The Bruins started off the game hot. UCLA come out in a zone defense, which seemed to throw Louisiana Lafayette off of their game. The zone worked, turning over the Ragin’ Cajuns once and causing them to miss their first five shots. On the other end of the court, Tony Parker hit a jump shot, Jonah Bolden drained two free throws, Parker took it to the hoop for two, and Isaac Hamilton converted a reverse layup, resulting in an 8-0 lead for UCLA and causing a Louisiana Lafayette timeout shortly before the sixteen minute mark. If it were not for a couple of missed threes, it could have been better.
After the time out, UCLA extended its lead to 12-2 and then 15-5 on a Bolden three pointer and a Hamilton three pointer sandwiched between a three by the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Bruins’ zone continued to flummox ULL. Although they made some shots, including three pointers, UCLA maintained a lead in the realm of 10 points, with Bryce Alford converting an uncontested layup after a steal and rattling home a tightly contested 18 footer from the left wing. Once again, the lead could have been bigger, but Noah Allen missed a layup on a fast break and Tony Parker missed three of four free throws.
The Bruins led 25-15 just before the 10 minute mark of the first half, before UCLA had another spurt. Alford hit another 18 footer to extend the lead to 29-15, before ULL drained a three to reduce the lead to 11 points. Alford followed that with a three from the right side, follows by an Aaron Holiday three, and UCLA was up by seventeen, 35-18, causing Louisiana Lafayette to take another timeout with about 7:30 left in the half. In the next two minutes, UCLA’s defense suffered a bit, and ULL cut the lead to fourteen, 37-23, resulting in a Steve Alford time out.
With Thomas Welsh unavailable, center, Ike Okwarabizie, made an appearance (only his second of the season) with about 5 minutes left in the half, grabbing a rebound and committing a very questionable offensive foul in what should have been 2 points for UCLA.
UCLA was very sloppy down the stretch in the first half, with some poor looks, turnovers, and missed bunnies. ULL was able to convert 2 offensive rebounds into put-back baskets, and hit a couple of free throws resulting in a 14-4 run for ULL, and cutting the lead to nine, 41-32. Bryce Alford ended the run with consecutive three pointers, one from the right side, and one from the left, extending the lead to fifteen, 47-32. The Ragin’ Cajuns, however, hit a buzzer beater three from the right corner as time expired in the first half, however, resulting in a 47-35 UCLA lead.
In the first half, the Bruins were led by their guards, with Bryce Alford shooting a torrid 7-9 (3-4 from 3 point land), for 17 points, along with 4 assists. Hamilton chipped in 11 points on 5 of 7 shooting, with seven rebounds. The Ragin’ Cajuns were led by senior guard, Kasey Shepard, with 10 points, including two three pointers.
ULL started hot in the second half. They took the ball right at Tony Parker for two points. Parker missed two free throws at the other end (Tony was 1 of 6 from the line at that point), and ULL hit another two pointer, cutting UCLA’s lead to eight, 47-39. UCLA finally got on the board with an Isaac Hamilton reserve layup. The teams traded three pointers, with UCLA’s coming from Jonah Bolden, extending the UCLA lead to ten, 52-42.
At that point, UCLA began to feed Parker down low, who scored two baskets, the second of which was from a nice pass from Alford. ULL responded with baskets of their own, the teams traded turnovers, and UCLA led by nine points, 56-47, with slightly more than fifteen minutes left in the game.
After the TV timeout, ULL grabbed an offensive rebound and made a put-back two, to cut the lead to seven, 56-49. Hamilton hit two free throws to extend the lead back to nine. The next three minutes were very sloppy basketball, with one particularly poor possession by UCLA, and a bucket by the Ragin’ Cajuns. Hamilton converted a baseline layup, followed by a ULL three pointer, and suddenly UCLA was only up by six, 60-54, with just more than twelve minutes remaining in the game.
Alford hit one of two free throws, Olesinsky missed a wide open three, ULL took the ball right to the hole for two, and Bryce was called for an offensive foul. The Bruins led by just five, 61-56. Parker made a put-back shot and ULL hit another three pointer. UCLA led by just four, 63-59.
Then Noah Allen came to the rescue sparking the beginning of a 11-2 run by hitting a three pointer. Parker then hit two free throws after a ULL turnover (Tony was 3-8 at that point from the line), and UCLA was back up by nine. The teams traded baskets, with the UCLA bucket coming off a great assist by Bolden to Alford for the reverse layup. Then Issac Hamilton made a circus, facing-away-from-the-basket-over-the-shoulder shot from the middle of the paint followed by a Bryce Alford strong take to the hole, to extend UCLA’s lead back to thirteen, 74-61, with a little more than seven minutes left. The Bruins were on an 11-2 run, causing a ULL timeout.
After some more sloppy basketball, ULL hit a three pointer against the UCLA zone, cutting the lead to ten, 74-64, with about six minutes left. After a terrible possession in which UCLA didn’t even get a shot off, ULL scored an easy transition dunk to cut the lead to eight, 74-66. After both teams missed shots, Tony Parker fumbled a pass, grabbed it off the floor, and threw up a prayer . . that was answered. And the foul, which Parker missed (3 of 9 from the line). The Ragin’ Cajuns refused to go away, hitting another three pointer, cutting the lead to seven, 76-69. On the next possession, Hamilton was called for an offensive foul, his 5th foul of the game, fouling out.
After UCLA conceded an offensive rebound on the next possession, Steve Alford brought Parker and Bolden back into the game. ULL made one of two free throws, and Holiday did the same (on a questionable call). UCLA was up 77-70. Tony Parker missed his own shot, got the rebound and the put back two. ULL answered with a Shawn Long three pointer, cutting the lead to six, 79-73, with about two minutes left. Long would go on to have a great game in a loss, with 26 points and 16 rebounds.
Bryce Alford hit a long three, and then turned the ball over, leading to an easy two for ULL, with about 1:30 left. The Ragin’ Cajuns went into foul mode. Holiday made two free throws, and ULL got an easy dunk after a drive and dish by the Ragin’ Cajuns. It was 84-77, UCLA. Holiday made one of two free throws. Alford followed with two free throws, sealing the game at 87-77. After a bucket and one by ULL, and a few more free throws by UCLA, the Bruins finally weathered the Louisiana Lafayette storm in the second half, prevailing 89-80.
It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win. Alford was the player of the game, with 27 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds. Parker and Hamilton each chipped in 19. UCLA never trailed and clearly missed Welsh and Ali, but they got the job done even considering a second half in which they were outscored 45-42.
Next up is North Carolina on Saturday. Bring on the Tar Heels!