UCLA started the first half patient and working the ball around. The result was assists for Jaylen Hands and baskets for...Prince Ali. Ali hit his first four threes and went 6-6 in the first half with a nice assist to Moses Brown. Ali’s offense was possibly not planned for, but when you think about it from Hawai’i’s perspective, he is the guy you want to let shoot and shut down the rest. To the Bruins credit, they were patient and took advantage.
There was one change to the starting lineup. Cody Riley started for Jalen Hill. In the pre-game, Alford mentioned how teams weren’t covering Hill on offense, but the difference showed up on defense. UCLA was playing defense with a lot of effort with bodies flying around even when the positioning was not right. When Hill came in, Hawai’i went on a run. It was not from lack of effort but Hill got lost on screen and switches and was burned. Hill is willing to play defense just does not know how.
But, while Ali was the scorer, it was Hands who played a perfect half by dishing seven assists and no turnovers. He didn’t drive as much as he did against North Carolina, but he looked like a Pac-12 level point guard.
UCLA shot 57% and 62% from three to 27% and 29% for Hawai’i. It was a good half.
But, this is the 2018-19 Steve Alford-coached UCLA Bruins. Would they play two good halves? Nah. UCLA was losing in the second half total until a late three by who else but Prince Ali made the second half 35-35. Hawai’I outshot UCLA in the second half, 45-42, and missed a number of open shots. On UCLA, there were some selfish shots. Hands had some turnovers and UCLA gave up a lot of open looks. So, as usual, this team couldn’t put two good halves together.
Bottom line: UCLA can beat the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors with a hot player and a good half on defense. It is going to be harder to do that as the season goes on.
1. Player of the Game. Prince Ali had a career night with 23 points including 5 of 6 from three. Ali hit his first four threes of the game and the Bruins never let the Rainbow Warriors back into the game after that. When you realize that Ali is UCLA’s fifth option on offense, you realize how special this team can be.
2. Stat of the Game, 45-26 in the first half. UCLA played a solid first half and put out a lot of effort on defense. It led to a 19-point lead and teased how good this team can be. Just imagine if they played the whole game.
3. Big Picture Take Away. Cody Riley is really good. Cody started and had seven rebounds in 23 minutes. He helped on defense and showed that he is a legitimate post threat down low. When 7’2” wonderchild Moses Brown goes out, Riley can play the post. Riley is the underrated star and shows just how deep this team is.