Another fun win for UCLA. And UCLA fans definitely have something to be thankful for. Ben Bolch of the LA Times recapped last night's game this way:
On Thanksgiving, a holiday that is all about giving, it was his team's unselfishness that Steve Alford appreciated most.
Six players finished in double figures for UCLA, which tied a tournament record for points in a game and set one with 29 assists.
"As a coach, any time you make 36 baskets and get assists on 29 of them, you're happy with that," said Alford, whose team's wins have been by an average of almost 25 points per game. "These guys like to share the ball and they don't care who gets the basket as long as we score. We can beat you inside or we can beat you outside."
Lonzo Ball has made everyone want to make the extra pass. As in the game against San Diego, UCLA came out for the second half playing with some effort on defense and nearly flawless on offense. It is genuinely a thing of beauty at times. In an article for the Orange County Register, Tim Tuttle writes:
UCLA, primarily thanks to Ball's passing, had six players score in double figures. Thomas Welch and Isaac Hamilton had 16 each, Leaf and Aaron Holiday 14 each and Bryce Alford 13.
Ball, who made 6 of 9 field-goal attempts, including 4 of-7 3 pointers, was 2 of 3 at the foul line and had four rebounds and two steals.
Welch, the 7-foot junior center from Redondo Beach and L.A. Loyola High, knocked down open medium range jumpers, making 8 of 10, en route to his season high. He also had a game-high 10 rebounds. The 6-foot-10 Leaf, a freshman from El Cajon, made 6 of 9 field-goal attempts, including one 3-pointer and added nine rebounds.
UCLA opened the second half with a 17-4 run to take a 62-41 lead with 16 minutes to play.
It looked so good if you were a little drunk from Thanksgiving festivities, you could almost find yourself believe Lonzo's Dad talk about a Natty.
However, perspective is needed on a couple things. Portland was the best team UCLA played so far but they were not a top 100 team in KenPom. Thomas Welsh, TJ Leaf and even Gyorgy Goloman were dominant inside but Portland's bigs aren't exactly equal to Kentucky.
Also, a guy named Jazz Johnson went off for 26 points and his career high. Note, I guarantee Jazz has played a number of teams with less talent than UCLA. Jazz was torching Bryce early but in fairness to Bryce UCLA's 3 point D was non-existent in the first half. Portland went five of their first six threes and seemingly all their misses early were wide open looks. Portland shot 53% from 3 in the first half and could have easily shot a higher percentage.
Tonight, UCLA faces upset winner Nebraska. Nebraska upset perennial NCAA team Dayton, who is a master of tough defense. Interestingly, Nebraska shot 57% against a Dayton team that had not allowed a team to shoot 40% this year. However, they only shot 38% from three. It will be interesting to see how UCLA's defense fairs tonight against better competition.
Nebraska is ranked 74 in KemPom which makes them the best UCLA has faced this year. The competition keeps getting better. Will it make a difference for UCLA's offense? Or will someone be able to outscore them for lack of D?