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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Aaron Needs a Holiday

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Was Aaron Holiday’s career high in turnovers the key to the 78-69 overtime loss yesterday?

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Michigan
Were Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh a step slow at the end?
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For this roundup, let’s off with what Michigan and UCLA stories agree on was the key stat. First, from Michigan Live:

The turnover differential kept the game close. By the time Michigan took the lead, 19-18, UCLA had committed 10 turnovers to Michigan's four. The Bruins finished with 20 turnovers, including a handful of UCLA traveling violations, but the Wolverines' shot selection often had Michigan's coaches burying their faces in their hands. U-M attempted several contested threes with double digits on the shot clock in the first half. Interior defense remained an issue as well, with UCLA's 7-footer Thomas Welsh scoring 13 in the first half to give the Bruins a 30-27 halftime advantage. Welsh finished with 20.

Steve Alford agreed:

We turned the ball over 20 times. I thought that was the difference in the game. They turned it over 11 times, we turned it over 20. You can’t do that on the road. We got to the free-throw line, we out rebounded them, shooting percentages were about the same. We got beat form the 3-point line but we kind of figured that would happen especially in their building. I thought we defended the 3-point line pretty well. There were a lot of positives but we just did not make a lot of smart plays. We have five new guys playing their first true road game and I think that’s going to happen as long as we can learn from that.

Inside UCLA’s Thuc Nhi Nguyen agreed as well but singled out one player:

Aaron Holiday had a career-high 27 points against Michigan but it was another career mark that made the biggest impact for UCLA.

Holiday committed seven turnovers, surpassing the career-high six he set in his first collegiate game, as the Bruins gave the ball away 20 times in a 78-69 overtime loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor.

UCLA (7-2) had a 15-point lead with 14:48 to go, seemingly on the cusp of its first victory over a team with a winning record. But the Wolverines (8-3) chipped away steadily, tying the game with a pair of free throws from Eli Brooks at the end of regulation. UCLA turned the ball over five times in the final 15 minutes of the second half after building the double-digit lead without one.

To me, the LA Times’ Ben Bolch (after his obligatory China joke mentioning LiAngelo Ball’s career UCLA stats being one steal) nails the key to the game (emphasis added):

UCLA had mostly quieted the arena Saturday before Michigan’s Zavier Simpson stole the ball from Holiday and went in for a layup that pulled the Wolverines (8-3) to within 64-63 with 18 seconds left. Fatigue appeared to be a factor.

I knew his passes were getting lazy,” Simpson said. “I used my wing span, got a deflection and put us in a better position.”

Holiday was classy and took the blame:

It starts with me so you can put that loss on me. I didn’t really take care of the ball down the stretch and I turned the ball over too many times in overtime. It’s really me that takes care of the ball.

But the real blame is on Steve Alford who, to me, nailed the real issue as Aaron Holiday played every minute of the second half and overtime (emphasis added):

I thought he was terrific, but we did not give him or Tom [Welsh] nearly enough rest. That’s on me. We have a lot of young guys playing their first road game so that’s kind of scary I have to find a way to give those guys a rest. I found a way to get Tom a little, but not as much as he needed. Aaron I didn’t get to give him any rest, especially in the second half. We have to find ways of doing that and build that trust within our bench.

Kind of scary? Keep in mind that the Hangzhou Three are not point guards and would not have provided any depth for Holiday (although they could have helped with Welsh). As the LA Times states:

The obvious follow-up question: Who?

The Bruins (7-2) didn’t get many contributions from anyone besides Holiday and Welsh, who finished with 22 points on eight-for-12 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. The other seven UCLA players who participated combined for 20 points.

I will have more thoughts tomorrow. Steve Alford and others can blame the lack of depth for Welsh on the Hangzhou Three. It was the lack of depth for Aaron Holiday, the inability to prepare Jaylen Hands and/or recruit a backup point guard cost us the game yesterday. UCLA has still not beaten a team with a winning record.


Go Bruins!