While a lot of people are going to focus on Bryce Alford and/or Issac Hamilton who were the leading scorers UCLA's win was really about two other players coming through big and it was not really about offense. However, let's start with the obvious. As AP declares: "Holiday's 3-pointer sends UCLA past Arizona State, 81-74"
UCLA got such a rush from hitting a dramatic game-winning 3-pointer in the waning moments, the Bruins apparently decided to do it again.
Isaac Hamilton scored 26 points, Aaron Holiday hit the tiebreaking 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining, and UCLA outlasted Arizona State 81-74 on Saturday afternoon.
Holiday's 3-pointer from the top of the circle broke a 74-74 tie with 1:13 left. The shot was the last of nine lead changes in the final nine minutes. Bryce Alford added a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left to seal it.
The dramatic victory comes two days after Alford hit a game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds to upset No. 7 Arizona.
UCLA scored the final nine points to pull out the victory after trailing most of the second half.
On the other hand the offense was not really the reason UCLA won it. Until Parker and Welsh got two fouls it looked like UCLA was going to run away with it. UCLA took a double digit lead on the back of defense led by Aaron Holiday:
In the first half, Holiday and reserve guard Prince Ali sparked a 13-2 run from the defensive end. Ali swiped a sloppy dribble and took it for a layup. Holiday drew an offensive foul to set up another score. Isaac Hamilton was fouled on another breakaway after another steal.
UCLA forced two shot-clock violations, and the Bruins led by as many as 12.
"I thought our defense got better," Steve Alford said. "I think we've got a long way to go defensively, but I thought we did show some growth."
But after Welsh and Parker were benched with two fouls, Arizona State (10-6, 0-3) stormed back. Spanning the end of the first half and into the second, the Sun Devils went on a 27-10 run.
Hoilday's defense was so key in this period because he forced the ball out of the hands of Tra Holder. When other ASU players had the ball, UCLA was able to dominate until ASU adjusted and/or Welsh and Parker went out of the game.
However the unsung hero had to be Thomas Welsh. He out rebounded ASU BY HIMSELF in the second half:
But perhaps the most valuable performance came from sophomore center Thomas Welsh, who had a career-high 16 rebounds to go with 12 points. After a quiet first half that saw him grab just two rebounds, he crashed the boards hard, collecting five on the offensive end â including one that he fed to Holiday for the go-ahead bucket.
After scoring just two second-chance points before halftime, UCLA (11-6, 2-2) finished with 13.
The performance gave the 7-footer his seventh double-double of the season, and his fourth in the last five games.
His presence was missed for much of the first half, in which the Sun Devils (10-6, 0-3) racked up a 23-12 advantage on the glass and erased most of the Bruins' 12-point lead. Welsh and senior big man Tony Parker each picked up two fouls, and were limited to 10 and 13 minutes, respectively.
While Holiday's shot, Hamilton and Alford's points will get the headlines, the key was the defense of Holiday (with help from Prince Ali) in the first half and the total domination of the boards by Thomas Welsh in the second.
Usually I highlight positive quotes but I will highlight two quotes from the two players who were the keys to the game, yet admit they did not have "great" games and are frustrated they only were "great" for a half. After shutting Holder done in the first half, ASU's Tra Holder went off in the second half and Aaron Holiday takes the blame:
"In the first half, I think I did pretty well, but in the second half, I have to get better at fighting over screens."
Same with Thomas Welsh who had just two rebounds in the first half.
"I had to bring more intensity on the glass. I didn't bring it in the first half. I just knew I had to show more intensity in the second half."
More rebounds than the other team in the second half is intense as is keying a run to a double digit lead with your defense as Holiday did in the first half.
Great job Thomas and Aaron! Go Bruins!