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Bruins Fork Up Sun Devils, 102-80

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UCLA’s hot first half was more than enough to beat a below-average Arizona State team.

NCAA Basketball: Arizona State at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

You know, I was ready to be incredibly positive about this game, and I should have been able to! Isaac Hamilton had 25 points at the half! UCLA shot 62.1% from the field in the first half! The Bruins looked locked in and ready for Saturday.

And then the second half started, and any good feelings left the room.

Let me back up and say this started with the last few minutes of the 1st half, when Arizona State went on an 8-0 run to end the half. By itself, it looked like UCLA had just let off the gas pedal a bit at the end of the half. After all, the Bruins still led by 15 at the half, and by all means it seemed to be a small run by the Sun Devils.

In hindsight, we should have seen that second half coming.

ASU was able to claw their way back to single digits thanks to a combination of poor UCLA defense (a theme this year) and a stretch of cold UCLA shooting (also a theme this year). Seriously, at some point UCLA is going to need to figure out how to stop having these lulls against bad opponents when up big. There’s a saying that you shouldn’t accept in a victory what you would in a loss, and these poor stretches in blowouts are starting to get ridiculous. It’s on Coach Alford to figure this out, and hopefully soon, because eventually that will catch up to the team.

The good news is that, once again, it didn’t cost the Bruins in this game. This UCLA team can go on ridiculous runs like nobody’s business. UCLA went on a 19-3 run over 5:36 of time midway through the second half to put the game out of reach. Isaac Hamilton tied the UCLA record for made 3s in a game that Bryce Alford had set last week with 9, and the Bruins won comfortably. It is what it is.

Isaac Hamilton led all scorers with 33 points, while Lonzo Ball led the Bruins with 12 assists. TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu(!) tied for the rebounding lead with 9 apiece. Torian Graham led the Sun Devils with 26 points.

3 Takeaways

  1. Player of the Game: Isaac Hamilton - Well, Isaac made this one pretty easy with his 25 point outburst in the first half, but he ended up tying the single-game record later in the game, and had a wide-open shot late to break the record that he missed (and he was so open on the attempt that the first thing I focused on was the ASU player who just threw his hands up in disgust). After a hot and cold road trip for Isaac, it was really good to see this performance heading into the Arizona game on Saturday.
  2. Defensive Rebounding, once again, is a concern - UCLA easily out-rebounded ASU in this game 40-25, which isn’t surprising considering how poorly ASU shot in this game, but the Sun Devils were able to grab 9 offensive rebounds, which is just unacceptable. Credit to Ike Anigbogu, who had his best rebounding game of the season, but the Bruin defense in general HAS to do a better job of boxing out. It’s almost non-negotiable at this point, considering how poor the Bruin defense already is.
  3. Free Throws a deceptive issue - If you just looked at the team stats, UCLA’s 16-24 from the FT line would be a huge cause of concern. But dig a bit deeper in the stats and you’ll see that half of those misses came from Ike Anigbogu, who isn’t a very good FT shooter to begin with, while TJ Leaf added two misses of his own. Anigbogu leading the team in FT attempts is interesting in itself, and you’d expect a shooter of Leaf’s caliber to be better from the line, but beyond those two the Bruins shot much better from the line than you’d expect from that box score.

UCLA’s next game is on Saturday, with a 1:00 PM tipoff at Pauley against the #14 Arizona Wildcats.

Go Bruins!