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Sloppy Senior Night Ends With a Win Over the Cougs, 77-68

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Lonzo breaks the Pac-12 Freshman assist record in the win.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Boy, that sure was a game.

Senior Night was always going to be an emotional night for the Bruins, with Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, and Jerrold Smith all playing their last game in Pauley Pavilion. Lonzo Ball was also likely playing his last game on Neil and John Wooden Court. And it probably didn’t help that the other super freshman, TJ Leaf, was going to sit out as a precautionary measure.

So it wasn’t necessarily surprising that UCLA looked off for most of the night.

For those who are looking to jump all over the performance in this game: look, I agree that it wasn’t acceptable. The team looked disinterested in playing a good game, and honestly it felt like watching one of the preseason games where the Bruins knew they were going to out-talent the opposing team at some point.

But at the same time, it might have been good for UCLA to have a game like this. A game where nothing seemed to go right, where the team was clearly not at their best, and still gutted out a win. And if there was a positive takeaway from this game, it was that the Bruin defense continued to look much-improved, and really carried the team in this one.

And on that note, especially considering the Washington game, all UCLA really needed to do was win the game and not suffer another injury, and on both of those fronts UCLA succeeded.

Congratulations to the seniors, and to the rest of this Bruin team, on completing one of the greatest UCLA regular seasons in recent memory. Congratulations to Lonzo Ball on shattering the Pac 12 Freshman record for assists in a season, and congratulations to Bryce Alford on tying Jason Kapono for the most made 3-pointers in UCLA history. Now on to the Pac 12 tournament.

Aaron Holiday led the team with 16 points. Thomas Welsh led the team with 11 rebounds (and had another double-double), and Lonzo Ball broke his career record with 14 assists. Charles Callison led the Cougars with 25 points.

3 Takeaways

  1. Player of the Game: Lonzo Ball - Confession: I’ve struggled at times this year trying to avoid giving this spot to Lonzo after every game. Truth is there’s been only a few games this season where Lonzo wasn’t the best player on the court. But tonight, in his last game at Pauley, is as good a time as any to recognize his greatness. It helps that his stat line tonight (12 points on 4-8 shooting, 5 rebounds, and a whooping 14 assists) was so ridiculous. Lonzo Ball has been one of those transformative players that can single-handedly change the trajectory of a program, and it’s been an absolute joy to watch him this season. Here’s hoping we get 9 more games in his UCLA career.
  2. The biggest issue: rebounding - Even though it was hard to take much away from this, it’s hard not to recognize that UCLA had some issues on the glass tonight. Washington State managed to out-rebound the Bruins tonight 38-37, and scored a ridiculous 17 second-chance points compared to a measly 5 from the Bruins. Missing Leaf definitely hurt here, but UCLA has to do a better job of securing rebounds and limiting second-chance points as much as possible.
  3. One last regular season #Pac12Refs - Boy, this crew was bad. My favorite moment was watching Aaron Holiday get knocked down, a whistle get blown, everyone standing around looking confused, Hamilton trying to then steal the ball from the Wazzu player, and finally the referee calling a Washington State timeout. I can’t wait for one last weekend with the conference referees. It’s going to be so, so dumb.

Up next: the Pac 12 Conference Tournament in Las Vegas. UCLA’s first game is scheduled for 8:30 PM against the winner of USC versus Washington. So it looks like UCLA is going to have to go on one last #RevengeTour to win the conference tournament.

Go Bruins!