Look, I’ll be honest with you all: this game was pretty bad.
First, let me mention that this game was never truly in doubt. That’s what happens when your opponent decides to play their bench players for a grand total of 1 minute. You’ll eventually end up with worn-out starters (s/o to Bruinette, because we finally got to see a coach take Steve Alford’s bench deployment to its logical endpoint).
Second, I’m not shocked UCLA looked as disinterested as they were in this game. Turns out that it’s hard to get a group of 18-22 year olds to properly focus on one game at a time when they have a major match-up coming a few days later. It’s especially hard when your current opponent really isn’t that good. I know we’re supposed to say things like “anything can happen in any game” and “you have to take all road games seriously” but I just can’t bring myself to do that. Arizona State is a bad team, and there was no way this game was in doubt.
So with that said, I’m going to look at this game as a glorified scrimmage, and just try to talk about a few things, because doing any real in-depth play-by-play of this game would be a waste of everyone’s time.
If you really want to know how UCLA won, here’s the only stat you need to know: UCLA had 50 points in the paint compared to 22 for Arizona State. UCLA’s frontcourt absolutely dominated this game, and I do mean the entire frontcourt. TJ Leaf led UCLA with 25 points, Thomas Welsh tied with Lonzo Ball for the rebounding lead with 11, Ike Anigbogu put up a career-high 12 points (first time in double-digits), and GG Goloman had an efficient 11 minutes of play, including a block that made me giggle for a good 2 minutes. Arizona State had no answer for UCLA’s size, and I’d say it was good for UCLA to get their frontcourt rolling heading into a game against the much-bigger Wildcats.
If you want to know how Arizona State was able to keep this close, 2 things: for one, Torian Graham was unconscious at points tonight. Graham finished with 28 points and went 7-14 from distance, and honestly UCLA played pretty good defense on him; sometimes shooters get their shots to roll. Second, UCLA shot 7-23 from distance, with a lot of misses coming on some wide-open shots. Aaron Holiday was the only Bruin to shoot over 50% from distance, while the rest of the Bruins went a combined 3-16 from beyond the arc (including Lonzo and Isaac going 0-for on their attempts). We’ve seen UCLA have bad outings before, and they’ve come back to shoot lights-out, so I’m going to chalk this one up to, again, the upcoming Arizona game.
TJ Leaf led UCLA with 25 points. Thomas Welsh and Lonzo Ball led UCLA with 11 rebounds each, while Bryce Alford and Aaron Holiday tied for the assist lead with 6. Torian Graham led ASU with 28 points.
- Player of the Game: Aaron Holiday - See, this is the kind of game where having a guy like Aaron Holiday coming off the bench is such a boon. Aaron scored 17 points, threw in 4 rebounds, and tied for the assist lead with 6. Most-importantly, Aaron showed his growth as a point guard by running the offense effectively when Lonzo went out with his ankle injury, which is a great sign going forward.
- Lonzo tweaks ankle, Bruin faithful collectively hold breath - At halftime, the biggest story of the game looked like it would be Lonzo Ball’s apparent ankle injury. Lonzo left the game late in the first half and immediately went to the locker room, while #BruinTwitter began the process of rending their garments. Thankfully, Ball came out to finish the half, and an alley-oop in the second half basically put the injury concerns to rest, but it was a scary few minutes for UCLA’s postseason hopes.
- Area of concern: Uhhhhhhhhhh - Honestly? The only real question in this game was the lack of a full-game effort, but again, it’s something I can overlook all things considered. Anything else is nit-picky to the point of being essentially useless. Like, it would have been nice to see UCLA drive at the undermanned ASU more often once it became obvious that ASU was going to try and have 5 players go 40 minutes, but it is what it is.
UCLA next plays on Saturday, in a top-5 matchup at Arizona. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:15 PM PT.
Update: Corrected a section that stated Lonzo Ball was injured in the second half. The injury occurred in the first half.