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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Freshmen Bring Back the Fun

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Ball Sets Assist Record for Freshmen; Leaf gets a Career High

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington State
Leaf has a spectacular one handed dunk early against the Cougs
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

In the last two losses, TJ Leaf was 9-20 with 11 rebounds and 0 assists. Last night, he was 14-18 with 14 rebounds and three assists. As Ben Bolch writes:

There was plenty to admire about Leaf’s bounce-back performance Wednesday night at Beasley Coliseum following the worst two games of his college career. The power forward bludgeoned his Washington State counterparts with dunks, jumpers, hook shots, spin moves and layups, powering the No. 11 Bruins to a 95-79 victory that snapped their two-game losing streak.

The UCLA offense was back as a result (well, at least, the non-three point part) and UCLA won 95-79 over WSU.

UCLA has often won behind a barrage of 3-pointers this season. When the long shots weren't falling against Washington State, the 11th-ranked Bruins turned to their frontline of TJ Leaf and Thomas Welsh to carry them to a 95-79 victory Wednesday night.

Leaf, a freshman forward, scored a season-high 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds as UCLA stopped a two-game slide. Welsh, a junior center, added 17 points for UCLA (20-3, 7-3 Pac-12), and Lonzo Ball had 14.

"It shows how many options we have on the court," Leaf said after the Bruins went just 3 of 16 from 3-point range.

They were 38 of 50 on the rest of their field goal attempts.

Seventy-six percent?!? That is very impressive. There is an old saying that defense carries you on off nights. Well, for UCLA, it was the two-point game that carried them on an off-from-three night, as Steve Alford said:

"Well we still scored in the 90's. Not a lot of free throws or threes we made tonight and we still got in the 90's so that is a positive that we can find different ways of doing it when teams take something away from us. I thought they were very concerned about the three ball rightly so but I think that opened up a lot of driving lanes and things at the basket and our guys did a good job with that."

Regardless, the game was a “fun” win led by the freshmen again and breaking UCLA out of its losing streak with Ball setting the assist record and TJ Leaf getting a career-high 32 points. The freshmen earn the last word:

Coming off a weeklong break without a game, the Bruins reverted to the joyous style of basketball that had made their games feel like choreographed works of art prior to their recent slide. As Leaf discussed how much fun he had on the court, one of his teammates could be heard gleefully shrieking in the nearby locker room.

“Yeah, I mean, you can hear that right now,” Leaf said. “We just had a couple of games where we were just a little lethargic, just weren’t having as much fun as we were used to — even in practice, you could tell a little bit — and we definitely got back to it. I think having that week off helped a lot.”

Ball said the pregame message was to have fun and not treat the game like it was one the Bruins had to win.

Go Bruins!