The UCLA Bruins beat the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, 77-61, by shooting 53% in the second half led by an unlikely scoring leader in Jalen Hill.
UCLA came out with a different starting lineup with Tyger Campbell, Alex Olesinski and Chris Smith joined by new starters Jalen Hill and Prince Ali. Shareef O’Neal was out with a hip pointer. Cody Riley has also been sick.
The Bruins started the game rough on offense with players forcing shots, especially Chris Smith. Smith could beat his man but not convert. Hill did an ugly fade away and the offense was sped up and bad.
UCLA finally scored inside after 4 minutes on a nice inside move by Hill. That said, all UCSB could score was a three from their center and UCLA seemingly took out UCSB’s best player, Amadou Sow early. Both teams went a combined 2 of 19 to start the game for the first five minutes.
After that start, the Gauchos started scoring and carved up a UCLA zone that did not work. UCSB went 13 of 19 from the field after a 1 of 9 start. UCSB’s crafty veteran wing Max Heidegger was particularly effective scoring on drives and dishing out four assists.
UCLA’s offense found a way to score, ironically, in a way they could not last year—from the free throw line. UCLA drew 11 fouls and scored 10 of their 32 first half points from the line. It could have been more but Riley and Jaime Jaquez Jr. both missed front end of one and ones and Riley did it twice. The other key was Jules Bernard from three. UCSB was understandably playing off Bernard waiting for him to drive. Bernard did that some, though Ali was the worst culprit as he got blocked ugly at least twice, but Bernard did hit two nice threes. UCLA went 4 of 8 from three.
Still, UCLA was down 34-32 at half primarily because the defense struggled against a good wing and while they were in a brief zone.
The second half saw a different game. Prince Ali scored the first four points of the second half on a pretty floater and a steal and dunk to give UCLA the lead to start the half. More importantly, he was playing nice defense, the best of his career. At one point, he knocked the ball out of a Gaucho player’s hands, barely failed to save it and, then, hustled back 90 feet for a steal from behind.
Led by Ali, the defense adjusted to Max. He did draw fouls and score late but UCLA started by shutting down Sow and Max.
Hill followed up with some nice inside plays and rebounds. Hill took over inside. Sometimes, the best offense seemed to be throw the ball at the rim and let Hill rebound. He had six offensive rebounds in the second half. UCLA’s offense started clicking and the Bruins went up 11 and never really let up.
Another shout out goes to Jules Bernard. He had some more ugly offense but also went three for three from three and finished strong with some better drives. Bernard’s and Ali’s drives also led to 13 free throws, four more than UCSB combined.
- Cronin not Alford Basketball: UCLA’s defense was inconsistent but overall good, including forcing nine turnovers in the second half. On offense, UCLA had four times as many two point attempts as three. UCLA pounded it inside drawing 27 free throws and fouling out two of UCSB’s bigs, including their best player Amadou Sow.
- The new Ali/Bernard: Both had some ugly shots and drives like days of old. But Bernard hit three crucial threes and Ali was the spark with his defense in the second half. While we saw the ugly last season, we never saw the same sort of positives from either player last season.
- Player of the Game: Jalen Hill had a career-high 22 points on 9 of 13 shooting, 4 of 6 free throws, 8 offensive rebounds and 3 blocks. Hill’s presence on the offensive boards won the game.
It was a nice win over a solid team. For the second game in a row, UCLA came out better in the second half.