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One Perfect Half of UCLA Basketball is Enough to Beat UC Berkeley

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UCLA plays a great first half which is enough to overcome an ugly low effort second half for a 81-71 win.

TJ Leaf celebrates a Sports Center highlight dunk
TJ Leaf celebrates a Sports Center highlight dunk
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The story of the first half was the UCLA offense was back with a couple of beautiful runs. Even better may have been the defense, at least at times. UCLA held UC Berkeley to 30% shooting. While UCLA has had some good second halves on defense (seemingly made after adjustments) with the exception of their little guard Grant Mullins, UC Berkeley could not do anything against UCLA in the first half.

But, back to the offense. Bryce hit his first four threes in the first half and had 16 points. The play of the half belongs to TJ Leaf. Leaf broke the ankles of his man than drove for a dunk over UC Berkeley's Center.  Even better was the fact that Leaf outplayed UC Berkeley's star big Ivan Rabb.

The second half was sloppy and uneven. It had the feel more of an early season game against a mid-major. There were some nice plays but the result was already determined in the Bruins' mind and it was played like that. Steve Alford called a rare timeout with a 14 point lead to yell at the team for the lack of effort with 4:40 left. It did not help. UCLA remained in a funk and UC Berkeley even pulled within five but UCLA made its free throws tonight (20-23).

Midway through the half I was going to say Bryce Alford was player of the game. Bryce hit his four threes. He scored at will and had some nice plays the first 30 minutes. However, his last 10 minutes when the team was playing bad, Bryce forced things a bit.  He missed some ugly shots that reminded me of the worst of last year. Don't get me wrong. Overall, he had a good game. It was just one player had a better game without the same lull.

3 Takeaways

1.  Player of the game. Walton's most coherent comment was "TJ Leaf has been great every game except Oregon. UCLA lost that game." It was a good point. When UCLA took its lead in the first half, Leaf was outplaying Rabb. Leaf opens things up with his flexibility. He was a better player than Rabb for much of the game. Rabb was forecast as a top NBA pick. While Lonzo Ball is UCLA best player, Leaf is the best "second best" freshman we have had since freshman were eligible.

2. Isaac is still off. He hit a three. Other than that he was awful. Better put: he played D okay for the first half but by the end of the game he was a complete liability. He did a couple of ugly drives that were forced. He is in the worst of all worlds. He is pressing and lacking confidence.

3. UCLA stopped playing in the second half. It almost cost them the game. They did not score a field goal for almost the last four minutes. The finish of games may be a worry. Hopefully, the team remembers it is a 40 minute game, not 30. Two perfect halves from this team will be tough to beat. Better teams will beat UCLA with second halves like this.

Go Bruins!