Last night's 102-62 victory over UCSB was exactly what was advertised. Fun. Or maybe better put FUN!
The lesson of the most recent beat-down in the series was that there are no periods in TJ Leaf, only exclamation marks.
The LA Times' Ben Bloch is fully on board. He's earned a little fun after covering football's funeral dirge. Meanwhile, the AP and nationwide writers have noticed how good TJ Leaf and Lonzo Ball are:
Two freshmen almost managed something in one game that's been accomplished only four times in UCLA's storied history — a triple-double.
Forward T.J. Leaf and guard Lonzo Ball each finished only a few assists shy of a triple-double in No. 2 UCLA's dominating 102-62 victory over UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday night.
Leaf finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Ball had 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
UCLA coach Steve Alford took both players out with several minutes still to play, uninterested in individual accomplishments.
A bit more on the almost triple doubles and especially Leaf's showy one as he took over the game for a period:
There are four triple-doubles in the prestigious history of UCLA basketball.
On Wednesday night, the list nearly grew by two.
The Bruins trailed once, at 12-11, then responded with a 17-0 run - all but three points scored by Leaf. Racing to a 16-point lead less than nine minutes into the game, the Bruins were well on their way to their 11th consecutive win.
At halftime, Leaf was two rebounds and four assists shy of his first collegiate triple-double. The power forward finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, exiting the game with 3:43 left and UCLA leading by 35.
Individual accomplishments are nice (Leaf had career highs in assists and points) but here's to hoping the freshmen set some team accomplishment records at the end of the year. While the national writer focuses on the great accomplishments of Leaf and Ball, Bloch flagged something else that may be as important for the team going all the way:
UCLA center Thomas Welsh missed a second consecutive game because of a bruised right knee, allowing extra minutes for backups Gyorgy Goloman and Ike Anigbogu.
Anigbogu showed a variety of moves with a jump hook and a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Ball. He finished with nine points, seven rebounds and four blocks in only 18 minutes.
In other words, if Ike played big minutes we might be talking about all three freshman almost having triple doubles.
It was also nice to hear Steve Alford talking about the injury to Thomas Welsh to be an opportunity and not an excuse.
I thought when Ike was out, we were able to get Tom going and get G.G. some minutes and now Tom has been out for a few games, hoping to get him back for the weekend, and I think it has been good for G.G. and Ike. They have grown and matured in the last couple games. So that's good if we can get this front line healthy, we are just going to add to the weapons we have. To win two games and score in the hundreds, win by 20 in one and win by 40 in the other, and to not have Tom Welsh, that is encouraging. He is a big part of what we do both offensively and defensively.
The fun goes to Vegas this Saturday for the last test of the non-conference season. It represents another chance to help erase the disaster of last season:
UCLA will arrive in Las Vegas for Saturday's CBS Sports Classic at T-Mobile Arena to play Ohio State as the No. 2 team in the country, 11-0 on the season and with a victory at Kentucky.
"When you're 10-0 and you're ranked second, there's obviously a good positive buzz about it, but it's just 10 games," Alford said before the Bruins played UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday.
But the Bruins are showing no signs of letting up.
It's a big difference from the last time they visited Las Vegas. The Bruins lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, falling to crosstown rival Southern California 95-71.