All the stories on UCLA's 88-83 victory over Cal Poly have the same gist, so let's take the one by Inside UCLA's Jack Wang:
On Friday, the Bruins (1-1) had choked away a 10-point lead with less than eight minutes left in regulation, and ultimately fell to the Hawks in overtime. On Sunday, they had similar trouble putting away the Mustangs.
After building a 15-point cushion with 15:45 left on the game clock, UCLA allowed Cal Poly (0-2) to chip its way back in. The Mustangs scored nine consecutive points in less than three minutes, but the Bruins responded with 3-pointers by point guard Bryce Alford and sophomore Jonah Bolden — making his career debut after being ruled ineligible by the NCAA a year ago.
But the UCLA offense quickly dried up again. A scoring drought that lasted nearly four minutes kept the window open for Cal Poly, which tied it 67-67 with 7:21 left to play. Memories from 2012, when the Mustangs pulled off a two-point stunner to foreshadow Ben Howland's eventual firing.
The Intern has it right, the keys were Thomas Welsh and Tony Parker:
It might have been different, if not for center Thomas Welsh, who scored a career-high 22 points on 10-for-12 shooting. He also had five rebounds.
Welsh and Tony Parker punished a small Cal Poly rotation in the paint. Parker contributed 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The big lineup, though, has been a double-edged sword. Defensively, Parker could not keep apace of Meikle, a 6-foot-9 transfer from Gonzaga, who, despite his size, plays with the quickness of a smaller player.
"I was basically guarding two guards these past two nights," Parker said.
The Big Big lineup is working well on offense (when the guards remember to get them the ball) but on defense it is tougher. While Thomas and Tony have been big in both games, the guards were much better this time:
The difference was in UCLA's guard play. The backcourt combination of freshman Aaron Holiday with juniors Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton produced 38 points and 22 assists compared to Friday's performance. Against Monmouth, the three combined for 36 points, but only managed half the number of assists and double the turnovers.
"The three of us knew that the first game was on us ... we win as a team, we lose as a team but we knew that the three of us didn't play very well," said Bryce Alford. "I think we played a lot better as a backcourt instead of three individual guards playing."
The last group of players is the bench. First Jonah Bolden. Bolden came in early and played a lot
The former four-star recruit, Jonah Bolden, made his debut in the first half, checking into the game at the 15:20 mark of the first half. Bolden was suspended for the season opener for team disciplinary reasons and sat out his freshman season a year ago for eligibility reasons.
The 6-foot-10 Australian native scored his first basket on a one-handed dunk in the first half. He later hit a 3-pointer.
Bolden ended up with 11 points.
That is somewhat deceptive. The "dunk" actually slipped out of his hands as he was fouled. Jack Wang sums Bolden up better:
Bolden, who entered the game off the bench less than five minutes into the game, showed promise as well as rust. The former four-star recruit had undergone knee surgery this offseason, and sat out UCLA's first game due to team discipline.
The rest of the bench is a more trouble issue. Alex Olesinski did not play in the second half and Prince Ali barely played. In his postgame presser, Steve Alford said he has to work on getting Prince and Ali more involved:
We don't want to lose track of Alex and Prince. I want them in the rotation. Tonight it got tight and we end up going with vets. Both Prince and Alex are guys I got to get them into the flow. . . . I gotta figure that out. It's not easy. This is the first team I've had that: (1) I've got depth but (2) its odd depth. It's a lotta length.
At the end of the day it is about two stars, Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh. Tony said of his partner:
Parker sat at the podium again Sunday, studying the stat sheet, this time in a much different mood. When asked about his relationship with sophomore center Thomas Welsh, Parker was more concerned with off-court issues than Welsh's career-high 22 points.
"Really with Tom, it's just about getting his swagger right," Parker said. "I really want him to rock long hair, with like with the headband, but he won't do it."
Tom does not seem the rock star type, maybe more old school with his sweet baseline jumper. However, if Tony and Thomas keep playing this well and their teammates get them the ball, it will give reason for UCLA to smile besides Tony's jokes. A basketball version of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
Go Bruins. Pepperdine Thursday.