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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Trading Finesse for Physicality

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Lonzo Ball leads UCLA again with a great second half to lead UCLA to a 102-87.

Lonzo Ball took over to start the second half
Lonzo Ball took over to start the second half
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The number one story of the game last night was the referees as Nirya details. However, you have to deal with things like this and overcome. UCLA did in the second half. Ben Bloch details this in an LA Times article:

After a maddening first half in which their shots wouldn't fall, nearly half their roster was in foul trouble and they wilted under the Matadors' relentless pressure, the Bruins refamiliarized themselves with the basket by attacking it.

The new tactic resulted in a 62-point second half in which the Bruins (2-0) shot 58.8% and scored 30 points in the paint to wipe out a two-point halftime deficit.

Again, Lonzo Ball led the way with a spectacular second half start similar to his start in the first game. Bloch described it like this:

Ball made a three-pointer on the Bruins' first possession and then dribbled nearly the length of the court in transition for a one-handed dunk. He later whipped a one-handed, crosscourt pass to Hamilton for a three-pointer before the Matadors could set their defense.

After the game, Steve Alford spoke about the mindset that Ball and the team need to have:

I don't know if he or any of our other guys had that mindset to start the game and that's kind of the lesson you learn is that you're not just going to go from one game to the next and score 119 again and win by close to 40, it doesn't work that way but these are all learning things and we will get it. These are great teaching points for us. How we started the second half, he was a heavyweight fighter ready to knock you out. How we started the first half, we wanted to rope-a-dope. We don't have anyone in our locker room that is Muhammad Ali and they are too young to understand the rope-a-dope. So we wanted to come out throwing punches first and early and I didn't think we did that tonight. Again, that's not necessarily their fault. It's a learning process.

That second half mentality turned the game around in every way. An article from Bakersfield.com explains:

After trailing against visiting Cal State Northridge in the first half with only two 3-pointers, No. 16 UCLA attacked the basket and corralled rebounds aggressively to pull away to a 102-87 victory Sunday night.

The Bruins (2-0) went 5 of 16 from beyond the arc after making a school-record 18 in a 119-80 win over Pacific on Friday. They made up for that disparity against Northridge by taking high-percentage shots and outrebounding the Matadors 23-11 in the second half.

In addition to mentality difference in the second half, there was a style difference as well, as noted by Clay Fowler in the Orange County Register:

But No. 16 UCLA traded some finesse for physicality in order to pull away from Cal State Northridge in the second half of a 102-87 victory Sunday night that was a stylistic contrast to the fast-paced opener.

The Bruins managed 13 fewer 3-pointers than the school-record 18 and 17 fewer points than it scored in Friday's 39-point victory over Pacific. . . .

The Bruins guards were more aggressive in the second half, leading to a significant advantage at the foul line. UCLA made 31 free throws to Northridge‘s 16.

While in both games Ball was the undisputed leader, the bench played key roles in both games. In the first game, Aaron Holiday was the spark off the bench. This time it was GG. Clay Fowler notes:

Coming off an injury-plagued season, junior forward G.G. Goloman posted a career night of 12 points and eight rebounds after fouling out in six minutes in the season opener.

This is a very talented team that should go far. That is on Steve Alford to get them from good to great. Alford admitted as much in his comments after the game:

We talked to them before that we are a good team now. We have a chance to be a great team and that is what we are building towards. We are trying to go from good to great. There will be some teams that have the opportunity to do that. I think we are one of them but that doesn't mean we are going to get there. There is a lot of work that has to go into it. The guys I think will put in the work because I have great guys. They are tremendous young men that want to get better and these are experiences they have to go through to see what we are talking about as coaches.

Go Bruins!