Oh, now I remember why this team can look so good.
It’s safe to say the last few wins have been a bit underwhelming after the loss to Oregon. Sure, they all were comfortable wins, but the Bruins allowed some lesser teams stick around well past the point that they should have, and that has been concerning for many.
Then tonight happened.
UCLA exploded offensively for the first time in what feels like forever, keyed by a return to form for Isaac Hamilton and Aaron Holiday and an unconscious game from Bryce Alford, and rose above some ridiculous foul calls to beat the Colorado Buffalo 104-89.
Let’s talk about the biggest non-Bryce news from the game (I swear he’ll get his due later), which is the triumphant return of Isaac Hamilton. Hamilton scored 20 points in this game on 7-11 shooting, including 4-5 from distance. The UCLA offense is just so much better when Isaac Hamilton isn’t a black-hole on offense, and UCLA became unguardable in the second half thanks to his offensive awakening. A bit more under the radar has been Aaron Holiday’s struggles, so it was also nice to see Holiday have his best game in awhile as well. Holiday had 14 points on 5-8 shooting, and played much more controlled game.
There was a big negative to the game, and honestly this isn’t something UCLA really could control, but the refereeing in this game was not great, and that’s me being as generous as possible. Yes, the Pac 12 is known for subpar refereeing, but this was a special level of terrible. Colorado shot 38 free throws today, which single-handedly kept the Buffalo in the game, while every Bruin had at least 2 fouls (Thomas Welsh being the lone Bruin to foul out). Simply put, the poor officiating made this game nearly-unwatchable, which is unfortunate for the Pac 12, because UCLA should be drawing in as many eyes as possible.
At the end of the day, UCLA played well to get the win, and will now look to complete the first-ever road sweep under Steve Alford on Saturday. Here’s hoping this team is good enough to break that streak.
Bryce Alford led all scorers with a career-high 37 points. Thomas Welsh led the team in rebounds with 6, while Lonzo Ball led the team in assists with 8. Xavier Johnson led the Buffalo with 21 points.
- Player of the Game: Bryce Alford - It’s easy enough to say Bryce was the PotG just for his shooting, and it’s not a bad argument. Bryce went 9-14 from distance, hitting ever-increasingly ridiculous shots as the game wore on, and seemed to take some courtside taunting from a CU fan as a personal challenge. But I also want to focus on Bryce’s defense in this game. We’ve long been critical on BN of the effort Bryce displays on the defensive end of the court, so it should be no surprise that when Bryce gives consistent effort, we’d highlight and applaud it. At the end of the day, this was Bryce’s best game as a UCLA Bruin, and the senior did what seniors are supposed to do in tough road games: lead.
- Area of concern: defensive rebounding - Besides the continuous fouls, UCLA had a defensive rebounding problem in this game. Colorado collected 12 offensive rebounds in this game, extending possessions and leading into more fouls being called. Steve Alford mentioned that the Bruins were looking to clean things up on the board, but Colorado obviously was able to exploit UCLA inside. UCLA’s defense isn’t great to begin with, so cleaning up the defensive glass is an easy way to limit possessions by opponents that can and should be cleaned up.
- With offense like this, who needs defense? - Take this last point with a tongue fully in my cheek, but UCLA truly might be the exact college team that can win it all despite having a subpar defense. I have a theory regarding this, but suffice to say I believe that UCLA’s offense is so good that teams have to make a decision to either focus completely on the defensive end and hope to grind the game out, or focus on the offensive end and hope the Bruins miss enough shots. The second thing is what happened against Oregon, and even then the Ducks needed some luck down the stretch to win on a last-second shot. Ideally, UCLA would be better on the defensive end, and the last few games (including this one) have shown some positive growth on that front for spurts, but this team’s strength is their ridiculous offense, and it just might be enough to carry them all the way.
UCLA next plays on Saturday, in a road game against Utah. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:00 PM PST.