Nothing like having another mid-major team visit Pauley Pavilion at a time when the Bruins needed to get a win to end their three game losing streak and find some confidence before they open of Pac-12 play on January 3rd against Stanford.
Well, that’s what the UCLA Bruins got when the 10-4 Liberty Flames from the Atlantic Sun Conference visited this afternoon, another mid-major team. However, Liberty brought their own fire to Pauley Pavilion and scorched the Bruins.
UCLA did not value the basketball in the first half, as the Bruins turned the ball over an incredible 12 times, with Jaylen Hands having three of them. The Flames were able to score 15 points off of those 12 turnovers and was the difference in the first half.
The Bruins continued their inability to run any kind of offense during the half, as they looked unable to take advantage of the height advantage that they had over Liberty. The Bruins guards could not effectively feed the post, and even when the post was fed, the Flames doubled quickly, and the UCLA bigs struggled to make the right passes out of those double teams. Moses Brown had 11 points and 9 rebounds in the first half, but he was not utilized the way that he should have been during the first half.
Another continued team struggle reared it’s ugly head for the Bruins during the first half, horrible free-throw shooting. The Bruins were 3 of 9, with their best player, Kris Wilkes going 1 of 5 from the charity stripe, which definitely hasn’t been very charitable to the Bruins.
The Flames ended the first half of play on a 7-0 run, and the Bruins were held to one field goal in the final 6:41 of the first half and Liberty went into the locker room up, 34-26.
The second half had UCLA continuing to turn the ball over at an alarming rate and, at the 12:02 mark of the second half, the Bruins were down to the Flames by 16 points in what was a total embarrassment for UCLA.
UCLA tried to get back into the game and went on a 8-0 run to pull within 50-42 at the 9:03 mark. On Liberty’s next possession Scottie James was fouled and hit 1 of 2 from the line to stem the tide a little, but Jaylen Hands continued the Bruins’ push on the next possession and he hit a three and pulled the Bruins to within six.
However, the Flames responded on consecutive possessions, with the big shot being 5-foot 9-inch Darius McGhee’s 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of 7-foot 2-inch Moses Brown, as Liberty extended the lead back to nine points with 7:49 remaining.
UCLA cut the lead to six again as Jules Bernard converted two free throws, but, again, the Flames responded with their own 5-0 run that pushed the lead to 61-50 and forced a Steve Alford timeout at the 4:45 mark.
But the writing was on the wall and UCLA folded down the stretch as Liberty won 73-58, and handed the Bruins their fourth straight loss.
The Bruins turned the ball over 24 times and this turned into simply the most embarrassing loss of the year for the Bruins.
UCLA once again looked as if they had no clue how to attack the Flames offensively and even looked disinterested at times. Alford seemed to make absolutely no adjustments at the half, and the Bruins matched their 12 first half turnovers with another 12 in the second half.
UCLA will have to see if they can figure things out, as the Bruins open Pac-12 play January 3rd at Pauley Pavilion against the Stanford Cardinal at 8:00 pm PT.
UCLA Player Grades
Moses Brown: D
Brown definitely has a skill set, but he does not have guards that can get him the ball in prime spots. Brown also struggles with passing out of the double team, and this will have to improve soon.
Jaylen Hands: F
Hands became a little more active in the second half, but he currently doesn't do enough things at a high level that makes him a difference maker.
Prince Ali: F
Ali has literally turned into the most invisible upperclassman that receives major minutes in the history of UCLA basketball.
Kris Wilkes: F
If the narrative is that Wilkes and Hands are UCLA’s two best players, then their poor play is part of the reason the Bruins reside where they currently reside. Wilkes shoots poorly from the field too often to be a true leader on this team, and calling out other players when your play is not up to par probably puts him in a bad light with his teammates. Leaders are accountable...period!
Jalen Hill: F
Hill has no offensive game, if the other Bruin “scorers” were just that, Hill could focus on other things, but that is not the case with this team.
Chris Smith: F
You cannot shot the way Smith does, he’s shooting worse this year than he did last year. With his height, he should have a lost post game to go to when he cannot drive to the basket or his outside shot is not falling, but that part of his game has not developed either.
Jules Bernard: F
Over dribbled today, shot poorly, and turned the ball over too much.
David Singleton: D
Missed two layups in the second half, and was 0-2 from behind the arc.
Cody Riley : D
The player on the team that should be more of a focus. He was 2/2 from the field, and he just seems like he should get the ball more.