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The “Selfish” Lonzo Wins it for UCLA

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News Roundup of UCLA’s 83-82 win at Utah

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Utah
Lonzo helped UCLA to a win yesterday with his defense.
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The News Roundups of the game from the National and local perspective have the same flavor. From the AP:

UCLA has punished teams on the offensive end throughout the season, but the biggest sequence of the day for the No. 4 team in the country was a defensive stop that ended a near upset.

Lonzo Ball had 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds to help the Bruins edge Utah 83-82 on Saturday.

UCLA (18-1, 5-1 Pac-12) overcame a nine-point deficit in the second half despite a poor defensive performance most of the night. Aaron Holiday hit a deep 3-pointer with 1:52 left to give UCLA an 81-80 lead and Utah forward Kyle Kuzma missed a contested 3 in the final seconds.

"We're known for our offensive end, so it's great to finally win getting the stop," Holiday said.

However, Kurt Kragthorpe had a different perspective in the Salt Lake Tribune. He focused on another shot and keying the SPTRs for the win and crediting Steve Alford for a great strategy at the end:

Even the last second of the game provided one of the biggest, if only temporary, thrills in a game that featured a bunch of them. Some percentage of the 15,027 fans cheered wildly when Lorenzo Bonam caught Kyle Kuzma's pass from the opposite baseline and tossed in a shot. The problem is Bonam's buzzer-beater, like most 8-footers, counted for only two points....

The absence of whistles, the element that made this game so much fun to watch, contributed to the weird finish. Because the Utes were not in the bonus, UCLA fouled them three times — twice more than NBA rules would allow, for the sake of discussion — in a sequence that began with 12.9 seconds left and the Bruins leading by one point. The ultimate result was Kuzma's having to launch a twisting 3-pointer from the right wing, with the Bruins' Thomas Welsh rebounding the ball and making two free throws with one second left.

The Utes then got a better look on a play that started 94 feet from the basket than they did on the previous play from the baseline under the UCLA basket. Imagine if Utah had trailed by anything less than three points, and Bonam had hit a tying or winning shot. As it is, anyone would wonder why he even was standing that close to the basket. But what if he had been fouled?

"As flukish as it was, I do think he got hit on the arm," Krystkowiak said. But "I don't want to have a headline that we got robbed, because we had plenty of opportunities."

A couple thoughts...UCLA fans who complain about the refs for being biased need to relax. Yes, there were some HORRID calls against us, especially when the Utah player fumbled the ball out of bounds and Bryce got called for the foul. But Utah felt strongly they were hosed.

Second, forget whether that was a foul or not. Compare the difference in the officiating in the UCLA two games on the Mountain road trip. Against Colorado, every play was seemingly a foul with some touch fouls called. Against Utah, UCLA had 13 fouls called on it (including three intentional ones) and gave up 6 free throws. Against Colorado, UCLA had 25 fouls called on it and gave up 38 free throws. Colorado and Utah shot roughly the same number of threes and Utah’s strategy was to attack the rim. The moral of the story is the Pac-12 refs are about as consistent as a piece of paper in a windstorm. It has to be tough on the kids.

(FWIW, I thought the Utah game was better, Colorado was some SPTRs who thought they were what the fans came to see.)

However, this detracts from the true hero of the game.

AS EXPECTED: UCLA’s highly touted freshman Lonzo Ball lived up to billing. The 6-foot-6 guard, who was last season’s national high school player of the year and is a projected NBA lottery pick for 2017, finished with a team-high 17 points. Ball also had eight assists and five steals.

“He played a great game. We did everything we could to prevent him from doing some of the things that he does,” said Utah guard Sedrick Barefield. “But he affects the game in a lot of ways and a lot of ways that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”

As Steve Alford said on Lonzo:

“Tonight he made a lot of winning plays on the defensive end tonight. He was very engaged defensively. Offensively he had eight assists and we missed a lot of shots tonight so he could have had even more.”

Alford also pointed out this was the second game at altitude in less than 48 hours. Despite this Ball played all 40 minutes. A Utah fan gets the last word.

“Lonzo, you’re selfish!” a Utah fan yelled at Ball as he conducted a postgame interview. “You should have sat on the bench for a few minutes.”

From the Utah perspective, it is selfish to wish Lonzo to sit because if he did, they would have won. From a neutral perspective, Lonzo is the least selfish superstar I have seen at UCLA. He does whatever the team needs to win and, yesterday, it was defense.

Thank you Lonzo! Go Bruins!