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UCLA Beats San Diego 88-68, Earth Continues to Spin

Nothing was really learned in the victory over the Toreros, beyond the inside game getting in rhythm.

NCAA Basketball: San Diego at UCLA Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

So, here’s the problem with games like this one: I could write these postgame threads well before the game ends. In fact, I started writing this early in the 2nd, if only to make sure I could get it up quickly and prevent my dog from delaying this (and for those of you asking, Metaxa is a good boy but also an attention-hog).

But like I said, I realistically could have prewritten this postgame, and just pointed out the oddities. For example, outside shooting was really bad in this game! I don’t know what to attribute this to beyond everyone just being off from distance, since this wasn’t just a case of “Bryce didn’t have his shot!” or “Hamilton was off!” UCLA didn’t make a three-pointer until 10:25 in the second half; up until that point, they had gone 0-12 up until that point.

The good news for UCLA was that the big guys showed up tonight. The “other” superstar true freshman, TJ Leaf, absolutely went off tonight, scoring 26 points. Thomas Welsh easily had his best game of the season, putting in a double-double, including 12 points on an efficient 4-7 shooting.. To be fair, San Diego was definitely outsized by the UCLA frontcourt, but it’s still encouraging to see the frontcourt dominate when they should.

I can’t say anything new about the defense, though. You can say it looked better, and I would probably agree with you, but it wasn’t a huge improvement, and San Diego was able to take advantage of the slower frontcourt by putting bigger outside shooters on the court, and also running backdoor cuts against the Bruins.

TJ Leaf led UCLA with 26 points, while 6 of the 7 Bruins playing ended up in double-figures (congratulations to Bryce for his late 3 to put him over the edge). Lonzo Ball again led the team in minutes (38) and assists (8), while Thomas Welsh led the team in rebounds (11). Brett Bailey led the scoring for the Toreros with 22.

3 Takeaways

  1. Player of the Game: TJ Leaf - Feels obvious. Leaf absolutely dominated the smaller Toreros lineup, going for 26 points on 11-13 shooting, just feasting inside with a healthy smattering of dunks and layups. Through three games, Leaf has possibly been the best surprise for the Bruins, as most expected he would be good, but no one expected him to be this good right out of the gate.
  2. The offense is incredibly efficient and fun to watch - San Diego tried a different strategy than the first two teams to play the Bruins: slow the game down and turn it into a half-court game. What ended up happening was that UCLA proved they could still remain efficient in half-court sets. The Bruins shot 52.5% from the field, and many of the UCLA possessions could be characterized by multiple passes and hockey assists to find an open shooter. Had UCLA been better from distance (a disappointing 5-22 from distance), this score differential would have been even bigger.
  3. Today’s cause for concern: offensive rebounding - UCLA out-rebounded the Toreros, as one would expect, but the Toreros actually out-rebounded the Bruins on the offensive glass, grabbing 14 rebounds compared to the Bruins’ 7. That should be a big point of emphasis in the next few practices, as UCLA’s defense isn’t where it needs to be yet to get away with allowing that many second-chance opportunities.

UCLA’s next game will be on Sunday against Long Beach State.

Go Bruins!