There are a number of UCLA Bruins fans who want to credit Lonzo Ball with last season’s amazing offense. This season, it also seems like UCLA is keyed on one player who makes or breaks them as shown by last night’s 94-91 loss. From the LA Times:
Holiday helped spark the comeback with 13 second-half points, playing the final 20 minutes after being limited to 10 minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.
“When I’m on the floor making plays, we’re a great team,” Holiday said after the Bruins (13-7 overall, 4-4 Pac-12 Conference) suffered a season-worst third consecutive loss. “When I’m not, you obviously saw what happened.”
That first half was really bad. Holiday lost his cool and picked up a technical, two fouls on one play. He explains his side as:
Things went sideways less than five minutes into the game for the Bruins when Holiday was called for charging and then a dead-ball technical foul after some shoving that also involved the Ducks’ Elijah Brown, who was assessed an offsetting technical foul.
“He pushed me, I got his arm off me, just pretty much said, ‘What are you doing?’ and they gave me a tech,” Holiday said. “I don’t know why I got it, but I did.”
The result was as the Daily Bruin put it:
Freshman guard Jaylen Hands replaced Holiday after the technical foul and was able to stay on the court, but his guard was erratic at best. Hands finished with 12 points on 3-of-6 shooting, five rebounds and six turnovers, five of which came in the first half.
In one 40-second stretch late in the first half, Hands turned the ball over, committed a flagrant foul defending the consequent fast break and ended a Bruin possession with an offensive charge.
But, it was not just ugly offense. It was also terrible defense, as an AP article in the Orange County Register points out.
The Ducks had three players in double figures by halftime and led 52-38 at the break. They shot 55.6 percent (20 of 36) from the field and had zero first-half turnovers.
It was good defense that got the team going in the second half. The Register-Guard quotes Oregon coach Dana Altman as saying:
“I told them at the half we had 14 assists but didn’t mention no turnovers because I didn’t want to jinx it, but I jinxed it anyway,” Altman said. “Those four turnovers to start the second half really got them going.”
Altman was the difference in the end. To put it in perspective if Steve Alford was as smart as Altman, we would have one more win. Remember, Steve Alford did not foul Stanford and they hit a game-tying three that eventually led to our first loss in the Pac-12 in overtime. Altman made sure that was not possible.
Oregon led by 18 early in the second half, but needed Payton Pritchard’s four free throws in the final 7 seconds to cap his 25-point night and secure the victory. The Ducks fouled the Bruins to avoid a game-tying three-pointer twice in the final 12 seconds, a plan that could have been disastrous had they inadvertently fouled in the act of shooting.
UCLA trailed 90-87 with 7.3 seconds left when McIntosh fouled Alex Olesinski. Olesinski tried to sell that he was putting up a shot and deserved three free throws, but the referees agreed that McIntosh grabbed him before the shot, and Olesinski made two free throws to get the Bruins within 90-89.
UCLA (13-7, 4-4) immediately fouled Pritchard, who made two free throws to stretch Oregon’s lead to 92-89. UCLA inbounded to Aaron Holiday, who was fouled by Pritchard in the backcourt and went to the line for two more free throws.
“They were shooting it so well from three ... I felt like it was our best chance,” Altman said. “I was hoping we could get the ball to Payton or Elijah (Brown), our excellent free throw shooters. I felt like that was the best way to finish it out.
On InsideSoCal.com, Thuc Nhi Nguyen points out how the furious rally was great but too late:
Back-to-back Oregon 3-pointers pushed the lead to 18 with 15:29 to go, but the Bruins slowly chipped away. They made nine straight field goals. Holiday’s layup in traffic cut the deficit to one with 1:09 left.
The article on the official site mentions the great second half from Kris Wilkes.
Wilkes totaled 16 of his 21 points in the second half including shooting 6 of 8 from the field with three 3-pointers.
Unfortunately, it was wasted in the loss.
I’m giving the last words to Kris Wilkes. Here’s on of his postgame quotes:
I felt like in the second half we woke up. The first half we didn’t play great on defense. Overall we shot 52 percent so it wasn’t our offense, it was our defense. In the first half I think we were just asleep and let them run over us. The second half we played great, we just started too late to comeback especially in their house. . . . We just have to learn how to play the whole 40 minutes. We only played 20 minutes that game. They played the whole 40. We have to learn how to play the whole 40 because we are a better team. If we play our whole 40 against their whole 40 we would have won that game.
And, finally, this is what Wilkes said about Aaron Holiday’s first half foul trouble:
It takes away a lot. We need Aaron all the time for offensive and defensive reasons. For him to go out early in the first half and get into foul trouble really hurt us. It wasn’t just him it was us too. We still should have picked it up on defense even with him out.
I didn’t quote Steve Alford. I need a break from him. He needs to make the team play 40 minutes and play better. It is not Aaron’s job to do everything for this team. Sure, we need Aaron to be great against good to very good teams. This was not one of those teams.