If there is a theme to UCLA Bruins Basketball in the 2017-2018 season, it is a lack of consistency.
Merely 4 days removed from one of their most complete performances of the year, the Bruins allowed the Stanford Cardinal to shoot 51.4% from the field, and Bruin fans were treated to a now-trademark 2nd half collapse from this UCLA team, as the Bruins threw away a 13 point second half lead to lose to the Cardinal 107-99.
This was one of those “chickens coming home to roost” games for the Bruins. We’ve talked about bad free throw shooting from the team - UCLA shot 54.3% from the line in the game, and missed a series of free throws down the stretch that could have iced the game. UCLA’s defense has been “ok”, mostly fueled by poor shooting from the other team - Stanford took advantage of the porous defense and actually made their shots, scoring 56 points in the paint, shooting 51.4% from the floor, and shooting 9-21 from 3 (and Stanford even managed to almost be as bad as UCLA at the FT line, shooting 68.8% from the line and missing a crucial FT in the first OT that allowed Aaron Holiday to have a chance at tying the game). The UCLA offense lacked cohesion and flow for much of the season - and that was the case again tonight, as UCLA devolved into hero ball for too much of this game, and had a pitiful 10 assists in 50 minutes of game time.
Oh yeah, and I’ve been mentioning the rebounding woes UCLA has been having, so it shouldn’t shock you to know that UCLA was outrebounded 53-42 in this game. And Thomas Welsh still led the team in rebounds despite only playing 23 minutes thanks to a first half injury and foul trouble.
There are going to be people pointing to that FT shooting, especially the shooting down the stretch, and point to it as THE reason UCLA lost this game. And, on a very specific level, they’d be right. But UCLA lost this game for a multitude of reasons, and it’s hard, after a collapse like this one, after a defensive disaster like this, after a game that finally showed “THE STEVE ALFORD OFFENSIVE SYSTEM THAT ALLOWED LONZO BALL TO FLOURISH” is nothing more than a pile of garbage that can only work with a passing savant running it, it’s hard after all of that to not point the finger at Steve Alford. And those people would be right too. Stanford is not a good basketball team, and yet UCLA, for a multitude of reasons, can’t stop collapsing late in games.
And it again cost them a victory. This is no longer a young team. This is a poorly-coached one.
Aaron Holiday led the Bruins with 31 points and tied for the assist lead with Jaylen Hands with 3. Thomas Welsh led the Bruins in rebounds with 10. Dorian Pickens led the Cardinal with 26 points.
- Player of the Game: Thomas Welsh - I really wanted to give this to Kris Wilkes or my Large Hungarian Son GG Goloman or even Aaron Holiday for his heroics to keep the game going, but more than anything, this game showcased just how important Thomas Welsh is to this UCLA team. This goes beyond his contribution to the box score (though even in limited time he still led the team in rebounds, which says a lot), but also on the defensive end, where it was increasingly clear that UCLA’s defense needs Welsh to have any chance of looking good. So yeah, Welsh was PotG. Fight me.
- Area of Concern: Free Throws - UCLA went 1-8 from the FT stripe to end the game, and this wasn’t a concentrated effort on that front. Thomas Welsh, Prince Ali, and Aaron Holiday all came up empty on their trips to the line, while Alex Olesinski made the lone FT. It was an amazing cavalcade of suck from the line for the Bruins, who ended up 19-35 (54.3%) from the line overall. I don’t know if it is a mental block or something (Welsh at least has the excuse of his face injury) but that level of incompetence has to be unacceptable for any UCLA team.
- Other Areas of Concern: Pick One - Bad defense. Bad effort. Bad offense. Bad rebounding. Bad coaching. Bad. Bad. Bad.
UCLA has to try to pick themselves up quickly, as they travel to Berkeley to play the California Golden Bears on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 3:30 PM PST.