Well, we played a basketball game finally. But you wouldn’t know that from the Los Angeles Times headline. So, let’s get the latest speculation on the “Hangzhou Three” out of the way:
An ESPN reporter tweeted during the game that there was surveillance footage of the players stealing from three stores inside the swanky shopping center near their hotel. The reporter also tweeted that the UCLA players would not accompany their teammates home on the flight to Los Angeles and could remain in China for another week or two while the legal situation was resolved.
Ben Bolch also writes about what Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott had to say during halftime:
Pac-12 Conference commissioner Larry Scott said during halftime of the game broadcast that he was“incredibly disappointed that a situation has arisen that’s distracted from all the amazing experiences that the student-athletes are having here.”
Scott said Pac-12 and UCLA officials were closely monitoring the situation and that any discipline the players might face outside of that imposed by Chinese officials would be at the discretion of their school. A more pressing concern, for those associated with UCLA and the Pac-12, was a speedy return home.
“The players are being treated well,” Scott said. “I have no qualms at all in terms of the way they have been treated but this is very different from the U.S. system. It’s hard to anticipate exactly what’s going to happen.”
In case you weren’t watching the game, UCLA legend Bill Walton was the analyst for ESPN and Walton’s reaction was, well, legendary.
As far as the game itself, it was a tale of two halves.
Wilkes made his first three 3-pointers and scored 14 of his team-leading 18 points in the first half. His performance countered that of Georgia Tech center Ben Lammers, who went 8-of-8 in the first half for 18 points and finished with 24 points.
But aside from Wilkes, the 2017 Indiana Mr. Basketball, and Lammers, the defending ACC Defensive Player of the Year, both teams struggled from the field. The Yellow Jackets shot less than 35 percent and the Bruins hit only 40.7 percent of their field goal attempts, and both teams shot under 40 percent in the second half.
Wilkes was dominant in the first half while Holiday played the whole half and was surprisingly passive. He missed all four of his shots from three. The second half things reversed a bit as Aaron Holiday took over in crunch time:
Holiday struggled early, but scored seven of UCLA’s final eight points to keep the Yellow Jackets at arm’s length. Georgia Tech clawed back from an 11-point deficit at the 11:02 mark in the second half and got within two points with 19.9 seconds left, but missed two 3-pointers in the final seconds. . .
“The whole game, I was just trying to see what I could get, basically,” Holiday told reporters. “I just took my time and let the game come to me and then I was able to get to the basket a couple times to help my team win.”
The Daily Bruin story is the best when it comes to discussing the actual game. Hanson Wang notes a bit of troubling aspect:
Turnover issues plagued the Bruins again after their 24 turnovers led to 27 points by Cal State Los Angeles in an exhibition game last week. The Yellow Jackets transitioned to a 1-3-1 zone midway through the second half and UCLA gave the ball away 14 times, leading to 18 Georgia Tech points.
UCLA only outrebounded Georgia Tech by 1 and the Yellow Jackets actually had more second chance points. Most interestingly, in a change from last year, UCLA had zero fast break points.
A win is a win and this was under tough circumstances. UCLA has another easy game at home this Wednesday. Hopefully, the new look Bruins can focus and put the distractions behind them. One thing is for sure: these media roundups will have to sift through more news on “Hangzhou Three” than the game.