I don’t even know anymore, honestly.
There is one constant when it comes to UCLA Bruins basketball: Steve Alford is a bad coach. And that’s how you end up with stretches of games like UCLA has been on in the past few weeks, where they can look like a good basketball team one game to looking like a team that has no shot at making the NCAA tournament the next. This game against the Colorado Buffaloes was the latter, as the Bruins sleptwalked through most of this game, and failed to execute on both ends of the court.
Just taking a look at the box score would lead you to believe the Bruins should have lost by more than they eventually did. The Bruins shot 37.1% (23-62) from the field in this game, including an abysmal 20% (5-20) from distance. Oh yeah, and the Bruins went 8-18 (44.4%) from the FT line. Thomas Welsh was the only Bruin who seems to get the memo that there was a game today, as he ended up with 20 points on 9-10 shooting (the next closest scorers had 10). It’s pretty clear at this point that the team will only go so far as Aaron Holiday will take them, and tonight Holiday only had 10 points on 4-13 shooting, and had 6 turnovers to 4 assists. Not ideal.
Credit should go to Colorado as well, for looking like a team that actually wanted to play basketball today. George King was ridiculous today, going for 26 points on 7-12 shooting, including 6-10 from three, but this shouldn’t have been surprising since he went for 21 points on 7-14 shooting, including 5-11 from distance, just this past Thursday. And UCLA, for their part, seemed more than happy to oblige King and the rest of the Buffaloes by providing them open looks from distance at every opportunity. As a team, Colorado shot 11-22 from distance, and honestly that final number seems low.
Oh, we did get to see UCLA attempt to press in this game, which was an experience. Let me relate it to you with a video game analogy: the Bruins pressed in the way some people go on tilt in a fighting game. They’ve looked bad against a certain character multiple times, and decided to try that character out without any real practice or understanding of what makes that character good, and ended up looking ridiculous as a result. UCLA really looked like they had never practiced a press in their lives, and repeatedly gave up easy 2-on-1s down the court for easy Colorado baskets.
This was, straight up, a bad game by a poorly-coached team, and there’s no way around that fact. UCLA did not start the game with any urgency, did not come out for the second half with any urgency, and failed to make the final push at any moment where they brought the game close. To do that on the back end of a road trip is one thing, to do so at home in a game that you really cannot afford to lose is another, and the Bruins have now dropped 2 easy games early in the Pac-12 season. This was pointed out by most observers as the easiest stretch of the conference slate for the Bruins, and they ended it by going 4-2. That does not bode well for the Bruins postseason chances.
Thomas Welsh led the Bruins with 20 points. Kris Wilkes led the team with 9 rebounds, while Aaron Holiday led the team with 4 assists. George King led the Buffaloes with 26 points.
- Player of the Game: Thomas Welsh - At one point, Welsh went on a 10-0 run to cut the Colorado lead to 4 with 5:14 to go in the game. He did not touch the ball for the next few possessions, and the Buffaloes immediately brought the lead back up to 9. Welsh was literally the only Bruin who showed up for this game, so of course he gets PotG.
- Area of Concern: The Offense. Just in general. - If it isn’t glaringly obvious by now (and I’ve read the comments so it’s probably not as clear as it should be) but Steve Alford’s offensive system is garbage. It’s heavily reliant on outside shooting, abandoning anything that resembles an inside game for long stretches, and so you end up with an offense that lives and dies by that outside shooting. UCLA shot poorly in this game, so they lost. Every game, it becomes more and more obvious that last year’s beautiful offense was more due to the Lonzo Effect than anything Steve Alford has done.
- Still Can’t Defend the 3 - Again, weird that UCLA’s “Just let teams shoot 3-points without defending them” strategy did not work.
UCLA now heads on the road to begin the Oregon trip, starting off with a game against the Oregon State Beavers on Thursday. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM PST.