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Ten Thoughts On The Great UCLA Basketball Win Over Kentucky

Ten quick thoughts on UCLA's 97-92 win over Kentucky

TJ Leaf may be the ultimate Steve Alford player
TJ Leaf may be the ultimate Steve Alford player
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

10. This was as good as a regular season wins get. We beat an elite #1 Kentucky team on the road in front of 23,000 screaming fans on national TV. Excuses for losing were built in, but we overcame a cross country trip and an obscenely early start (9:30 a.m.).

9. UCLA's four underclassman compare to any of Kentucky's four underclassman. Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, and Aaron Holiday have as much atlethic ability and talent as any four on Kentucky.

8. UCLA has two players that Kentucky would never have and it is part of the reason UCLA won. Isaac Hamilton and Thomas Welsh are upperclassman that play up to their maximum potentials and limited physical abilities. Welsh boxes out inside to perfection and always keeps the ball high. If your young son or daughter wants to learn how to play Center on D, Welsh is a good model on technique. Yes, Welsh is slow but he runs plays perfectly as shown by the two perfect pick and pops he hit late in the game.

And while others had better games, Isaac Hamilton was the leading scorer. It was Isaac who made the impossible fade away as the clock was running out on a key possession. Isaac can barely dunk but he can score in a myriad of sneaky ways as teams tend to forget about him and focus on his flashier teammates.

In Hamilton and Welsh, UCLA has something Kentucky will never have, a couple of crafty veterans.

7. Speaking of forgotten players, Ike Anigbogu looked like the best combination of size, speed, and athleticism on the floor at times. Yes, he looks raw but, wow, he looks like he may be something special. While Ball is a lock to get a triple double this season, Leaf has a shot, one could see Ike do a Jelani McCoy and get tripled double with rebounds, points and blocks. Unlikely but not impossible, this kid is special.

6. Aaron Holiday still plays like a freshman at times. He made a dumb frustration foul after he missed a contested layup. But Aaron Holiday played like one of this year's freshman. Like Ike, Aaron's bursts of energy were key to this game.

5. UCLA has one of the best benches in the country with Aaron Holiday and Ike Anigbogu. It may be the best one-two punch off the bench for UCLA since Lorenzo Mata-Real and Darren Collision or J.R. Henderson and Cameron Dollar.

4. Lonzo Ball is a winner. Yes, Lonzo struggled early with 5 turnovers in the first half and a rocky start. Some of the things you do against a UC Riverside don't work against Kentucky. He brilliantly adjusted his game. He also fought so damn hard. Lonzo was playing four against Kentucky at different points of the game. He earned all six of his defensive rebounds. He made the big steal when it counted. You get the feeling Lonzo would set screens if that's what it took to win. Statistically, he may not have had a great game but he is this team's captain and MVP.

3. The good, the bad, and the ugly of Bryce Alford. The good: On offense, Bryce can play at this level and he is a legitimate shooting guard on an elite level. One could make the case if Kentucky had a dead eye three shooter like Bryce they would have won.

The bad: Why the heck was he the poor defending marginal point guard UCLA's point the last two years. Bryce is so much better as a 2 and Steve Alford's offense is as well. Steve Alford deserves a lot of credit for this year's recruiting class. He deserves a lot of blame for having Bryce as a point guard the last two years.

The ugly: People were on Bryce for missing free throws at the end of the game. Bryce is a very good free throw shooter and, while not a point guard, he is pretty good at not turning the ball over. Yes, Bryce missed a few but, over four years with his record and experience, he was the right guy to be shooting those free throws and will likely never miss two again. Give the kid a break.

2. Steve Alford coached a masterful game. He used his players to perfection. His offense destroyed Kentucky's defense. This was not a case of UCLA being magically hot or Kentucky being stone cold on offense. UCLA's offense was better than Kentucky's defense. Period. UCLA's offense is truly the best in the country right now.

1. The ultimate Steve Alford player is not Bryce or Lonzo but TJ Leaf. Throughout his time at UCLA, Steve Alford has waxed poetically about the stretch four. TJ is the dream stretch four. Leaf had 13 rebounds and scored inside and out.

More importantly, Alford has always loved calling his stretch fours guards. He called Kevon Looney a fourth guard and Kyle Anderson the same. Without an Anderson or Looney last year, UCLA was horrible. Alford's teams need a four that can pass and, boy, can TJ Leaf. He had five assists against Kentucky. He dominated the boards. He did it all. While Ball is the MVP, Leaf is the one that wins the coach's award.

Go Bruins!