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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Inspiration, Changes, and Same Old Story

Inspired by Welsh, with a new starting lineup, UCLA plays enough defense to win.

California v UCLA
If you don’t love Thomas Welsh’s grit and determination, you’re a bot and not human.
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

UC Berkeley is a really bad basketball team that is 1-7 in conference and has even lost to the other team with one win in Washington State. Last night was supposed to be about fixing what was wrong. The 70-57 win’s big story turned out to be something else but let’s look at the long-term picture first.

What I mentioned probably needed to happen happened last night as UCLA benched GG Goloman. The way UCLA did it was kind of surprising. An article on from the Associated Press explains:

UCLA started four guard for the first time this season, and Alford felt the adjustment showed early in the game.

”I thought we were much better in the second half with four guards,” Alford said. “We’re long, we’re fast, we’re very good in transition and I do think it got us more in transition.”

In a sense, this is getting the UCLA Bruins’ five best players on the floor at the same time. Now, I realize there is going to be a lot of debate on that statement but, putting aside that for a second, the Daily Bruin tells part of what happen:

UCLA’s defensive numbers were certainly better Thursday than in any of its three previous outings, though Cal’s league-worst offense may have helped.

The Golden Bears mustered just 35.5 percent shooting on the night en route to an offensive rating of 85.1 points per 100 possessions, and UCLA also forced 15 turnovers to help offset the fact that Cal grabbed 19 offensive rebounds.

More interestingly to me is this Aaron Holiday quote which is born out multiple ways:

I know if we play defense, we’re going to win.

And I still think that is the key, as the San Francisco Chronicle points out:

Cal led for nearly 13½ minutes in the first half, playing the first 10 minutes without a turnover and extending its lead to 27-14 on a Sueing three-pointer at the 9:50 mark. Then, things regressed to the mean quickly.

After Lee went to the bench with his second foul, the Bears went 1-of-12 from the floor and committed seven turnovers in the half’s final nine minutes.

Playing without Welsh, who was in the locker room with a sprained left knee after contesting a baseline jumper, UCLA reeled off an 18-0 spurt and closed the half on a 24-4 run to take a 38-31 lead.

Now onto Thomas Welsh. Wow. He is playing with a mask that hurts every time it is touched. He sprains his knee running out on defense to the three-point line, yet he comes back in the second half and is diving for loose balls! Are you kidding me? Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News writes:

Alford said he does not know the long-term ramifications of Welsh’s injury, diagnosed as a left knee sprain, but he returned to the game five minutes into the second half and finished with seven points. All five of his rebounds came in the second half when he dove on the ground for loose balls and slammed a two-handed dunk with 9:42 left that snapped the game’s final tie.

“He’s an amazing guy,” Alford said. “He just gives you everything he’s got.”

Welsh is a true senior leader, as freshman Kris Wilkes said:

And then Tom (Welsh), he started playing hard, and then he got hurt and it was like, “He’s playing hard.” He’s getting banged up—got a messed up nose, messed up knee. The next person’s got to step up. Fortunately, everybody stepped up and we were able to get the win.

I have been really hard on GG and it has to be mentioned that GG stepped up last night in Welsh’s place. The Daily Bruin writes:

Senior forward GG Goloman also provided a spark while Welsh was sidelined, earning the praise of his coach and his teammates. In Goloman’s 27 minutes on the court Thursday, the Bruins outscored the Golden Bears by 17 points.

“When Tom got hurt, I told (Goloman), ‘Hey, it’s your time now, you’ve got to step up,’” Wilkes said. “(Goloman’s) a great player – he’s just scared to mess up sometimes and he’s just got to go out there and play. When he just goes out there and plays, you see what he can do.”

While the focus was on Welsh for his hard earned heroics and inspiration, the key was probably the defense. Steve Alford said:

I’ll have to look at it but I think we didn’t get the stops we needed to start both halves. Once we settled down defensively we were better. The last three to four minutes of the last three games, we’ve been really good defensively. So now, it’s just about the starts.

UCLA’s start last night was horrid, but so is Berkeley. The next three games (Stanford, Southern Cal, and Arizona) are all progressively harder. The bad starts are going to be too much to make up if they continue.

Go Bruins!