Somehow I always end up writing the game reports for the close games.
UCLA moved to 6-1 on the season with a 75-66 victory over the CSUB Roadrunners, but the eventual pull-away may have hid that this was a rough first half for the Bruins. The Bruins led 29-27 at the half, but spent the vast majority of that first half in catch-up mode, with some poor shooting and bad offensive movement really hurting the Bruins.
No, seriously, the first UCLA assist came with 8:31 left in the first half, and the Bruins didn’t take a lead until 1:07 was left on the first half clock. Aaron Holiday led the team with 8 points but was a mess for most of the half, finishing the half with 3 turnovers and only 2 assists. The Bruins shot 34.5% from the field, including a ghastly 1-10 from distance.
Luckily, things turned around in the second half, with the Bruins finally attacking the interior of the CSUB defense for easy points. Hilariously enough, UCLA’s big run where they extended the lead to double-digits came with Thomas Welsh on the bench, which we’re just going to chalk up to irony. The Bruins shot 56.7% in the second half (17-30) though they only made 1 more 3 pointer in the half (on 7 more attempts).
The better sign was the defense that was on display in the second half. CSUB was held to 25.6% from the field in the half, and shot an abysmal 4-22 from distance in that half, with two of those 3s coming in the final 2 minutes during the last, furious push from CSUB. That’s easily the best defensive output UCLA has put on this season, and while CSUB did score more in the second half, that had more to do with the rise in pace that UCLA had employed.
That rise in pace might be the other big takeaway. Steve Alford had mentioned prior to the game that he was looking to slow things down, because by his estimation UCLA’s rapid pace was causing some offensive issues. To that end, UCLA did seem to slow things down in the first half, and you could see the offense struggle. In the second half, UCLA picked up the pace, and things got better, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see UCLA offense remain at that top speed going forward, even if there are growing pains.
Aaron Holiday led the Bruins with 16 points and 6 assists. Thomas Welsh led the team in rebounds with 10. Jarkel Joiner led the Roadrunners with 20 points.
- Player of the Game: GG Goloman - Holiday scored more points, and Welsh had more rebounds, but Goloman really had the most complete game here. Goloman was 5-8 from the field for 10 points, and threw in 6 rebounds and an assist. More importantly, he was pretty clean in this game, with only 1 turnover and 3 fouls. With Welsh in some foul trouble in the second half, Goloman came up big as a steadying force in the middle, and because there won’t be as many options to do this in the future, I’m giving GG the honors.
- Weakness: 3-Point Shooting - UCLA was an abysmal 2-17 from distance in this game. We knew, with the loss of consistent outside shooters Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford, that UCLA might take a step back, but that is one hell of a step back. Aaron led the way by going 0-5 from distance, while the only two makes were from non-traditional outside threats Thomas Welsh and Alex Olesinski. That’s real rough, and hopefully things get better.
- A contrast in styles - Full disclosure: as a CSUB teaching credential student, it was fun to watch one of my future alma-maters play that competitively against a traditional power, but in general the contrast between the way CSUB plays defense and the way UCLA plays defense was striking. UCLA does a lot of things individually, relying on the high athleticism and talent of the players to win out. CSUB plays a ton of team defense, working as one cohesive unit on that end. Maybe Steve Alford will pick up a few things when he watches the tape back.
UCLA next plays on Sunday, with a game against Detroit Mercy. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 PM PST.