The comments were few in the game thread but they were germane. With Jalen Hands out with an ankle injury and in a boot, UCLA played this game down 4 scholarship players. As a result UCLA played walk-on Alec Wulff and rarely used Ike Okwarabizie in the first half and, according to Kingslook, had an excuse for looking less than optimal.
On the other hand, as dervish33 pointed out, we did not look at all like a Top 25 team against a much less talented UCI team. Poor shooting UCI shoot hit 41% from three and, led by Walt Hazzard’s grandson, Max Hazzard, made it a one possession game early in the second half.
Maybe a symbol for the game was Prince Ali. Ali, starting for the injured Hands, opened the game with a four-point play and finished the game with a career high and game leading 21, but it was Ali who got torched to start the second half by Max Hazzard for four three-pointers.
While UCLA was clearly more talented, even short-handed, UCI was able to stay in the game by taking advantage of UCLA’s poor perimeter defense. To his credit, Steve Alford switched Aaron Holiday onto Hazzard and the game was soon over as UCLA went on a few runs.
UCLA also won the game on the inside. UCLA shot less 30% from three but was able to get 30 points in the paint and shoot 40 free throws. That was the difference in the game.
In honor of Dmitri here are the three takeaways:
- Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh are a cut above everyone else and won this game for UCLA with their defense. Welsh dominated the defensive boards and had 9 in the first half, more important he anchored the defense. Our interior defense was good against UCI (maybe because UCI is bad) and Welsh was key. Holiday was our only point and he had seven assists and made some nice driving layups. Holiday shut down Hazzard on defense and effectively ended the game in the second half.
- We have serious issues at power forward. Smith looks the best on defense and had two steals. But against midgets in 19 minutes, he only had two rebounds. He also air balled a three and hit the underside of the rim on a layup attempt. GG got in foul trouble and was a non-factor in the first half. Alex Olesinski may be the best of the group in this game because he did rebound in the first half. In the first half, the three of them (also playing minutes at 3 and 5) were 0-5. In the second half, all played better but that was also because the game was out of hand and UCI was out-manned, tired and trying to play fast.
- The perimeter defense. UCI only shot 34% for the game but 41% for three. UCI had a lot of open threes and we seem to say this every night but the perimeter defense needs work. Holiday playing it in the second half, made the difference.