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UCLA Basketball News Roundups: 2 Road Games, 2 Chokes

It was not just free throw misses that led to UCLA’s disappointing 107-99 loss.

Detroit v UCLA
Alex made the ONLY late free throw for UCLA as we went 1-8 at the end of the game.
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

This UCLA Basketball News Roundup is tough to write as it was an ugly game and Dimitri did a great job of summarizing. First, let’s get out of the way the Daily Bruin which does a simple version of the loss:

The Bruins missed seven of their final eight free throws in regulation before giving up a game-tying 3-pointer with five seconds left. They finished 19-of-35 from the line.

It shouldn’t have been a tough lead to protect, but the Bruins did have to make their free throws.

They didn’t and paid the price.

This was part of a trend and a bad loss.

After shooting 78.6 percent at the free-throw line over the past four games, UCLA reverted to its early season form and shot just 54.3 percent against the Cardinal.

The Bruins have now taken second-half double-digit leads during both of their true road games to only lose in overtime. Michigan overcame a 15-point lead and Stanford, which entered Thursday’s with losses to Long Beach State, Portland State and Eastern Washington, overcame a 13-point lead in less than 10 minutes.

A tired UCLA team will be playing another Pac-12 road game on Saturday. That’s not exactly encouraging. Steve Alford can, at least, identify the problems. And, it is not just the free throw shooting as Dimitri pointed out. Here are the FOUR problems as identified by Steve Alford in the post game presser (bold mine) .

1. Foul Shooting

It was just atrocious foul shooting, second half in particular....

19-35 overall and 1-8 with the game on the line will kill you.

2. Defense.

I thought we defended in the first half, our efficiency at halftime was 95. In the second half, it was 135. You’re not going to win road games defending like that....But, we just didn’t get any stops in the second half.

At the end of the game, UCLA had no defense. Keep in mind, Stanford had lost their best player and their starting center. Yet, Stanford killed us.

3. Closing out

I told them that you might have nights where the free throw doesn’t go in; but the tenacity and the nastiness was not there in the second half.... We were up 12 with eight, nine minutes to go. It was Michigan revisited. We couldn’t close it out, and we have to figure that out.... We’ve had great effort all year long. It’s more of a toughness issue of understanding how hard it is to win on the road, and you can’t get up 12 to 14 points and relax. That’s when we have to step on the throat. This team just hasn’t learned that yet. Their effort now has to become really tough and nasty, and we haven’t been able to figure that out consistently on the road.

I have some sympathy for the free throw issue. On this issue, I have no sympathy. Alford is well paid to deal with it. Part of the problem is the end of games and OT the offense becomes Aaron Holiday only. Aaron is great but this is a team game. At the end of regulation, it was Michigan all over again with every possession run the clock down and a high screen from Welsh. Holiday is great but that is not his play. For Bryce Alford and Welsh, that was a great play as Bryce was great at the step back three. That isn’t the case with Holiday, who is best driving to the basket. That brings us to point four.

4. Offense

We’re not the super over-talented offensive team that we were a year ago, so we can’t just rely on offense.

This point, Alford really did not make. The offense was ugly. Mostly individual effort and only 10 assists on 99 points? Yikes.

There are a couple other notes from the Daily Bruin. Gyorgy Goloman scored his career high and Wilkes again carried us for part of the game when Holiday was cold and Welsh was hurt.

Ali and freshman guard Kris Wilkes provided the secondary scoring to Holiday, pouring in 16 and 18 points, respectively. Senior forward GG Goloman also notched a career-high 14 points.

Speaking of Welsh, man, what a strange game! Ben Bolch of the LA Times writes:

It had already been an odd game for the Bruins. Welsh required three stitches for a gash on his nose that forced him to miss most of the first half and to wear a mask after halftime. The mask affected Welsh’s shooting as he airballed a three-pointer and missed back-to-back free throws.

Welsh was called for a foul on the play in which he suffered the cut, awarding Travis two free throws while Welsh went to the locker room with blood coating his nose.

Welsh finally sprinted back onto the court during a timeout with about 31/2 minutes left in the first half while wearing No. 55 because his usual No. 40 jersey had been smeared with blood. Welsh checked back into the game but had to check back out less than a minute later after picking up his second foul.

The last word, again, UCLA has now choked both its true road games this year. Thuc Nhi Nguyen of writes:

UCLA made the mistake of blowing a double-digit second-half lead in its first road game of the year at Michigan. Then the Bruins did it again against Stanford.