In last night’s post-game, ArmyBruin75 and I went back and forth discussing whether this UCLA Bruins team would be better in the era without the shot clock. Against the Michigan State Spartans, for the first time in my memory, a UCLA team did a modern version of the “Four Corners Offense” and tried to slow the game down as much as possible. As late as four minutes left it looked like, UCLA’s strategy had a chance to work. But ultimately a much better Michigan State team led by Cassius Winston’s 20 points was too much and the Spartans won, 75-62.
Coach Cronin continued a theme this season of rewarding those who play hard. The star of the previous game, Jaime Jaquez Jr., started and promptly got the first rebound and points. Chris Smith was benched. Jaime rebounded and keyed our first seven points, scoring five and getting the hockey assist.
In the first four minutes, UCLA’s offense struggled to get a shot off with late shots inside that were blocked. But the Bruins was down just 5-2. Just like the night before, the other key was David Singleton. Singleton can hit a three and UCLA had a 10-9 lead. The Bruins slowed down Michigan State and, more importantly, won the boards. At the under 8 timeout, UCLA was up 14-13.
UCLA increased their lead to 18-14 as Tyger Campbell took advantage of some match ups as Michigan State inexplicably extended their defense against UCLA who struggles from three.
But then the game got fast and Cassius Winston hit two threes. A fast game favored Michigan State. They started to get some offense rebounds and went on a 12-2 run. But Jake Kyman hit a three to close it out. So, UCLA again had a low scoring half, but this time they were down just a few points against a much better team, 26-23.
In a nutshell, UCLA outplayed Michigan State slightly when it was slow, but the Spartans were much better when it was fast.
But the wheels came off at the start of the second half. MSU came out 10-2 in the second half as UCLA offense’s struggled to even get off a shot. Jalen Hill, in particular, struggled. The faster game killed the Bruins and, while UCLA had mini-runs including 6 points in a row out of Prince Ali, the Spartans slowly pulled away to a double-digit lead.
But the Bruins didn’t fold. UCLA started drawing fouls, making free throws and cut it single digits with less than six minutes left. The Bruins shot 19 second half free throws for 15 points led by Smith, who made 7 of 8.
But similar plays killed UCLA’s chances to win the game.With four minutes to go, UCLA had a chance to cut Michigan State’s lead to seven. Cody Riley had an open layup but Xavier Tilman came from nowhere when Riley went soft. The Spartans had a dunk the other way. It happened again to put the game away with two minutes left.
- Player(s) of the Game for UCLA: The small forward position. Yes, I am cheating. In the first half, Jaime Jaquez had five points and five rebounds. He was second in points for UCLA and led the team in rebounds in the first half. Similarly in the second half, Chris Smith led the team in rebounds and finished second in the half for points with nine, mostly from the free throw line.
- Stat of the Game, Part II. How little did UCLA try to run? UCLA had two, TWO, fastbreak points. I can remember a lot of teams’ slowing down the game against UCLA but this was the first time I had seen a UCLA team do it. It kept us in the game.
- Three-Point Line. Michigan State went 8 of 19 from three while UCLA went 2 of 15. UCLA has to defend the three better and find a solution from three.
Overall, this was not an unexpected result and this team always fights.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!