The first half (well most of it) was the best half of the season. UCLA raced out to a 39-19 lead as Detroit Mercy opened in a zone and dared UCLA to hit threes. UCLA did, Detroit extended the zone and UCLA drove through. For the first time this year it looked like the offensive juggernaut of last year. The ball really moved via the pass. When Detroit switched to man soon after UCLA went up 20, UCLA struggled for a bit but was able to dominate the Boards 26-14 (Including 8 offensive) and a 52-35 lead at half. Jaylen Hands was spectacular scoring 17 points, with a team leading 6 rebounds and 3 assists. After looking bad from three against Bakersfield UCLA shot 7-16 from three in the first half.
The defense was good for most of the half although it let up to allow Detroit Mercy a run after Detroit went man to man. But overall, a very good half.
The second half was a dunk fest. Detroit showed why they are truly awful on defense as they did not even try to rotate back on D. UCLA would steal the ball or get a rebound and someone would leak out for an uncontested dunk. Interestingly UCLA made a concerted effort to get Chris Smith the ball. (It kind of looked like 8 year old basketball when you have a big lead you try to make sure everyone scores.) Chris Smith also had his career high of 14 points.
This was the way you expected UCLA against the other cupcakes. This was UCLA’s first truly easy win.
1. Player of the Game: Jaylen Hands. Jaylen had a career high in points (23) and also grabbed 9 rebounds and had a couple steals. Hands showed why Steve Alford had him the starter at the beginning of the year. Hands hit threes, had dunks, etc.
2. Happy Problem. I gave Jaylen Hands player of the game but not far behind was Prince Ali. Ali had 20 points on 8-12 shooting and a very impressive 4 assists. Ali really look good all-around. Ali started for Hands but they both deserve to start. Prince Ali really knows his role and is playing like the player we expected when he was highly recruited out of high school. His passing tonight was very good and he really did not force any shots (Although he did have a mustard off the hot dog moment on a dunk he missed.) Can Alford get both Ali and Hands in the lineup? If not who does the start now that Hands is healthy? A happy problem to have two elite guards playing so well.
3. One more cupcake. This Wednesday UCLA plays 4-3 Montana who lost to Stanford by 16. UCLA played a complete game tonight. One more cupcake until the schedule gets tough. Tonight was the best game of the season by far but it was also against the worst defensive team of the last few years. Still, this is the way you are supposed to finish weak teams and the defense looks the best is has all year.
Final Stats are here.