Well, that certainly was a fun game!
The Bruins are your 2016 Wooden Legacy Champions after defeating the Texas A&M Aggies 74-67.
This was a well-earned victory for the Bruins, and a good sign for the season to come. The Bruins saw a rise in competition level during the tournament, and responded to the challenge with flying colors. Throughout the tournament, the Bruins showed their offense could still work well against teams looking to slow things down, as they played 3 solid defensive teams in Portland, Nebraska, and Texas A&M. And, while the defense wasn’t perfect throughout the tournament, the team showed signs that they could make defensive stops when needed.
Now, let’s be fair here as well: UCLA didn’t play their best basketball in this game. UCLA ran hot and cold on offense, with strong streaks of beautiful offensive play mixed with runs filled with turnovers and poor shots. And while the defense had their best night of the tournament, they were still forced to go to the zone for stretches to stop A&M’s ability to drive.
Still, this is a win UCLA fans should be proud of. Last year’s team would have found a way to fold and lose this game, let alone not even be in a position to win a tournament with a weaker field like the Wooden Legacy had. The Bruins showed grit and resilience in their first major test of the year, and that should hopefully pay off down the line. Now, the Bruins will look to tune up against UC Riverside before a date with Kentucky in Lexington.
Isaac Hamilton led the Bruins in scoring with 17 points on 7-15 shooting, leading 4 Bruins in double figures. Lonzo Ball had a double-double as he led the team in assists with 10, to go with 16 points in a team-leading 36 minutes. TJ Leaf led the team in rebounds with 9. Admon Gilder led the Aggies in scoring with 17 points.
- Player of the Game: Lonzo Ball - In the first half, I thought Isaac Hamilton would run away with this one, but Hamilton went 0-6 in the second half, and looked like a bit of a mess. Luckily, super-freshman Lonzo Ball was more than willing to pick up the slack. Ball recorded a double-double en route to winning tournament MVP honors, as Ball continues to show that the early hype surrounding him is warranted.
- Defense a work in progress, but looks improved - I will say this for the Bruins: I don’t think they’ll ever be a great defensive team. But I think they can be good, and it starts with increased effort from the guards. To their credit, the guards had a much-better outing defensively in this game. It wasn’t great by any means, but it was definitely a step forward. It also helps that Ike Anigbogu looks like a difference-maker on defense, altering what the Aggies tried to do on offense. If this group can tighten up their defensive rotations, I feel they can get to a point where the team can survive an off night from the offense.
- Free throws the big concern in this game - Now, this is a bit nit-picky, and I could have mentioned the rebounding again, but that was an improved effort against a better interior team, so I’ll focus on free throw shooting here. And again, this is pretty nit-picky, because the Bruins only took 13 free throws. But going 6-13 for a sub .500 shooting percentage isn’t great, especially once you consider that Bryce Alford accounted for 5 of the makes. Hopefully this is just a single-game issue, as the Bruins have been pretty good shooting free throws this year, but it’s still something you’d like to see fixed before Kentucky.
The Bruins return home on Wednesday for a home game against UC Riverside. Tipoff is set for 8:00 PM on the Pac-12 Network.