Aaron Holiday came off the bench and finished the game to give UCLA the nice win over a good Ohio State Team 86-73. As the game was in Las Vegas, it served as a reminder how much things have changed since the last time UCLA was in Las Vegas when UCLA lost a third time in one season to Just SC:
When star freshman Lonzo Ball arrived at UCLA, Aaron Holiday lost his starting point guard job.
Holiday showed Saturday he can provide the surging Bruins with a needed boost off the bench. . . .
It was UCLA's first game in Las Vegas since bowing out of last season's Pac-12 Tournament with a blowout loss to rival Southern California in the first round. It closed a 15-17 season and led Alford to issue an apology.
Holiday insisted he "didn't think about the last time" he was in town, but UCLA is a far superior team.
Holiday wasn't point guard last year but the Associated Press did not cover UCLA much last year as they were terrible so I guess it gives them an excuse for getting it wrong.
Holiday did have a quote which sums up one of the reason he has been so good off the bench:
"Yeah, I just tried to get my mind right on the bench until my name was called, pretty much. Obviously, I could see different things that the defense aren't doing and are doing so I can go out there and help that way. But I'm always just trying to help my team any way I can. Tonight it was scoring and trying to play defense the best way I can. So that's what I try to do every night."
The numbers backup "sixth starter" Holiday as being one of the most important keys to this season's #2 ranking and 12-0 start:
Holiday was the most important player in UCLA's win over Kentucky on Dec. 3, had 17 points and only missed one shot in the win over Michigan Dec. 10 and finished with 20 points in the victory over the Buckeyes.
Holiday has made 15 of 26 shots from the field in the three wins and was 9-of-16 from beyond the arc. He's shooting 55 percent from the field for the season, compared to 39 percent a year ago, and 53 percent from deep. He shot 42 percent from 3-point range last season. . . .
Holiday comes off the bench and gives the Bruins a jolt. He can play alongside Ball as a scoring point guard or can also run the team and give Ball a breather - as a guy who can both put the ball in the basket and also distribute. He's far more effective these days in his new role, and it's made the Bruins far more impressive.
Holiday's play was needed Saturday as he helped turn the game around and also helped us close it out:
UCLA played a ragged, turnover-filled first half Saturday afternoon at T-Mobile Arena and didn't shoot particularly well over the final 20 minutes. None of it mattered. The second-ranked Bruins prevailed fairly comfortably, 86-73, over Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic after their four-guard lineup provided the finishing touches. . . .
The buoyant ending came courtesy of the guard-heavy lineup that UCLA Coach Steve Alford likes to use at the end of first halves and games, particularly when his team is protecting a lead. The four guards can all pass and shoot and are adept at making free throws as well as the smart play. . . .
The Bruins committed only three turnovers after halftime, pulling away despite making only four of 17 three-pointers over the final 20 minutes. The savvy of the players on the court more than compensated for a few bricks.
Four savvy guards and a stretch four who can handle the ball is pretty amazing when you think about it. It works in part because the starting point guard, Lonzo Ball, can also play four and led UCLA with 9 rebounds.
Steve Alford gets the last word on Aaron Holiday's play:
Well, one, having someone like he and Ike, and again, we hope our bench can get deeper, but thus far through 12 games our bench probably has done more in 12 games than 32 games last year, and that's huge. When you can go to your bench and your starters and whoever is out on the floor can play as hard as they can, and now they have to ask to be taken out. They're trusting the guy that's coming in for them, and the guy that's coming in for them can raise the level of play when their teammates have gotten tired and we're seeing that. Our bench, there is not a drop off. What Ike can do off the bench, if G.G. eventually goes back to the bench as Tom gets healthy, he's going to be more experienced now. And what Aaron brings, we have four elite guards and you have to prepare at a high level for all four of those guards. We finish most halves and finish most games with those four on the floor. So if we can get leads, I like our chances at the end, because those are four high-level guards.