Let’s be honest. The South Carolina State Bulldogs just aren’t a very good basketball team. They came into Pauley Pavilion tonight winless in four games and having lost each of their last three basketball games by more than 30 points.
For Pete’s sake, they lost to Yale by 32 points on Tuesday.
Yet, somehow, they managed to turn tonight’s game against the Bruins into a close contest. In fact, nine minutes into the first half, the Bulldogs actually led the Bruins 18-16 and, at the end of the first half, UCLA only led South Carolina State by six, 41-35. That’s despite the fact that the Bruins led by as many as 13.
Two minutes into the second half and the Bulldogs were actually able to cut the Bruin lead to just four.
UCLA started playing the way they are capable of playing by going on 15-4 run to open up a fifteen-point lead, 59-44. But, the Bulldogs weren’t done yet. They came back with a 13-4 run of their own to make it 63-57 with about ten and a half minutes left.
The Bruins used a 18-4 run over the next six and a half minutes to finally push the lead to 20 points. Over the final four minutes, the Bruins stretched the lead to 25 and they capped the game with a 3-pointer by Alec Wulff to finish with a 28-point win.
Jaylen Hands led the Bruins with 22 points while Chris Smith added 15 off the bench. Kris Wilkes scored 14 and Thomas Welsh had 13 points and 15 rebounds for a double-double.
The team continued to struggle on defense for much of the game as Donte Wright led all scorers with 23 points off the bench for the Bulldogs.
The big takeaway from this one is that the Bruin defense is still a work in progress and it will be interesting to see what happens in the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City where the competition will be tougher than what UCLA faced in their last two games.