The headlines of the news stories focus on Isaac Hamilton, here is a typical blurb from one of those stories:
It was a good sign then, when UCLA's game Wednesday began with Hamilton's confident three-pointer from the top of the key. He bounded down the court, as if on a pogo stick. The second half began similarly, with Hamilton's four-point play, a three-pointer he made while falling to the court, plus the free throw.
It ended with Hamilton on the free-throw line, the game in hand. In between, he hardly missed in UCLA's 82-73 win over Oregon State. Hamilton made 10 of 14 shots for 25 points.
Hamilton has scored in double figures in 15 consecutive games, and his maturation into a confident, consistent scorer has allowed UCLA (12-7, 3-3 Pac-12) to weather off nights from its typical bellwethers, Bryce Alford and Tony Parker.
Hamilton was very good but he was not the story of this game. As Jack Wang writes:
UCLA hasn't solved all its defensive woes, but Wednesday night was a step in the right direction.
The Bruins broke through at Oregon State, earning an 82-73 victory that marked their first conference road win of the season. They did so by holding the Beavers to under 40 percent shooting for much of the game, and trailing for just 74 seconds at Gill Coliseum. . .
The game also saw significant changes to the UCLA rotation, perhaps a result of Alford's recent dissatisfaction with his team's defense. After hinting at lineup changes last week, the coach gave 17 minutes to forward Gyorgy Goloman â who recently recovered from a stress fracture in his right leg â and 14 to junior guard Noah Allen, who had only totaled 65 minutes this season.
Meanwhile, former four-star recruit Jonah Bolden played a season-low four minutes. The 6-foot-10 forward had been averaging 21.2 in conference play.
GG and Noah Allen, the injured and forgotten players from last year's bench, were keys to the win. I think it is safe to say that Noah works hard on practice. Here are the words of the hardest working man in practice, Thomas Welsh, on Noah Allen:
on Noah Allen's role against Oregon State
"He was fighting hard all week long, playing so well on the defensive side. That's what our coach wants, really. That's what we need from everybody. But he was really bringing it defensively tonight. That was huge for us. We need him to continue to do that for us this Saturday."
Before the season, we were told that GG was going to be the starting power forward or four. Last night we saw the reason why:
Gyorgy Goloman played for only the second time this season and had three points and three rebounds in 17 minutes, but his coach said he was a huge presence.
"He understands how to play, he's always in the right position defensively, and he did a great job of handling the middle of the zone," Alford said.
While UCLA's defense was definitely better there was an element of luck as well. For example, UCLA's free throw defense was awesome:
Oregon State played without senior forward Jarmal Reid, who was suspended a minimum of four games for tripping a referee during the Beavers' 59-53 loss to Utah on Sunday. This was the first game he missed. ... Oregon State was averaging 68.1 percent on free throws entering Wednesday, but the Beavers made just 12 of 24 against UCLA. "If we make free throws when we are struggling to score it, it's a different ballgame," Coach Tinkle said. ...
Oregon State is a team in trouble. That stat and UCLA's offense were some of the other keys to the game:
Oregon State dropped its third consecutive game for the first time this season and only the third time of Wayne Tinkle's two-year tenure, falling to UCLA 82-73.
Key stats: UCLA adapted well to Oregon State's zone, shooting 58.1 percent in the first half to build a 40-32 lead. The Bruins finished 29 for 56 from the field, becoming the third team to shoot over 50 percent against the Beavers this season.
Oregon State could not capitalize after drawing 22 fouls on UCLA. The Beavers finished 12 for 24 from the free throw line.
UCLA could win with two players fouling out (Aaron Holiday and GG is also a nice change.) On the others side, OSU is a bit of a one man team. As Wang also notes:
Crucially, Oregon State's Gary Payton II â the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year â picked up two fouls less than four minutes into the game. The Beavers sent him to the bench while holding a one-point lead. When he returned nearly 10 minutes later, they trailed by 10.
So UCLA was a bit lucky and Hamilton was hot but the story was the defense as Steve Alford said:
on what made the difference for UCLA on defense
"Well, I think that their attention to detail in the last six days. They have practiced well. It doesn't always work that way. You can practice well and still play bad at times. But, we practiced well and we've had a great demeanor. They've listened. They've watched way more tape than they ever have. I think they know. I think it's been all over everywhere that we're giving up 86 points per game in Pac-12 play. They know that. It's starting to affect them a little bit and hurt them. And that's good. Outside of those last four minutes, we had held them in the 50s. We just gave them easy buckets protecting that lead. But I thought we really responded. I don't think that it was any one individual. It was great to have G.G. [Goloman] in there, because he gives us a presence having been with us one year ago. He understands how to play. He's always in the right position defensively, and he did a good job handling the middle of the zone like we wanted. So, if there was an individual who really helped, it's him. We got some really good stuff out of our bench. That helped us a lot."
Thank you Hamilton but also thank you to the much maligned UCLA bench for really bringing it on D.