The UCLA Bruins came into the game against the UC Berkeley Golden Bears on a three game losing streak. Steve Alford was interviewed before the game and was asked about the recent string of losses, and he responded by saying that the team lost their identity in recent games. Lost their identity, coach? What exactly is that identity? I think we would all agree that this team does not have an identity, other than they cannot play defense well, their offense is inconsistent and they cannot make free throws. During much of the first half of basketball two out of three parts of their identity held pretty much true to form. UCLA was getting killed in the paint and their offense was erratic.
Then the 9:07 mark of the first half came, and UCLA Basketball and Bruins Nation held their collective breath as Thomas Welsh attempted to block a shot and came down awkwardly and left the game with an apparent left knee injury. Ironically, the Bruins went on one of the more improbable runs in recent memory, a remarkable 18-0 run in the absence of their senior center to go up 32-27. UC Berkeley hit two free throws to end the run, but overall UCLA ended the half on a 24-4 run to go into the locker room up 38-31.
The Bruins actually held the Bears to 38% from the field in the first half, and 25% from behind the arc.
The best part of the second half was seeing Thomas Welsh come back on the bench for UCLA and entering the game at the 15:46 mark. His impact was immediate as a grabbed a rebound on a missed free throw and immediately headed down court and put up a shot that was missed but Olesinski was fouled on the put-back attempt and hit one out of two to put UCLA up 45-39.
However, the erratic and inconsistent UCLA offense reared it’s ugly head as the Golden Bears went on a 8-0 run to go up 47-45 at the 11:55 mark. Chris Smith stemmed the tide with a big right corner jumper to end Berkeley’s run and even things up 47-47. UCLA then went on its own mini 6-0 run to go up 51-47.
One of the highlights of the game came at the 5:43 mark as Jaylen Hands got loose on a breakaway tomahawk dunk that was followed on UCLA’s next possession by an Aaron Holiday three, and UCLA had their largest lead of the game, going up 61-51.
The Bruins miraculously hit their free throws going down the stretch to put the game away, and snapped their three-game losing streak with a 70-57 victory over the Bears.
Aaron Holiday led the Bruins with 21 points and 6 assists. While Kris Wilkes led the Bruins in rebounds pulling down seven boards.
The Bears were led by Justice Sueing’s 24 points.
Next up for the Bruins will be a revenge game and their next must win game against the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.
UCLA Player Grades
It’s simple, the Bruins go as Holiday goes. His strength and ability to “linger between levels” is second to none on the team and in the nation for that matter.
Tonight just seemed like Hands best night of the year. He looked confident and aggressive. We have been waiting for some highlight dunks by Hands, and tonight we got one.
It was a quiet night for Wilkes tonight. He didn’t shoot well from the field or from behind the arc. He did pull down seven boards to pace the Bruins.
Without question the biggest enigma on this team is Ali. His skill set should not produce the types of games he’s been having lately. It’s nice to know that he will be around Westwood for a while honing his game.
“The Mask” is quite simply the heart and soul of this year’s team. He starts the game getting hit on his nose and receiving treatment, and then sustaining what looked to be a bad left knee injury was not enough to keep him out. Welsh returned and was big for UCLA during the second half.
This was a typical GG night. He was a body out there playing for UCLA, nothing more, nothing less.
Ole pretty much played the same role as GG. He was a there and played 16 pretty uneventful minutes for the Bruins.
Smith played pretty well today and was active for the Bruins. He hit a big second half shot for the Bruins.