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UCLA Escapes with a 65-62 Victory over the Fighting Irish

A ragtag effort by the Bruins was saved by a Jalen Hill block and a Kris Wilkes basket to win the game.

NCAA Basketball: Notre Dame at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish visited the UCLA Bruins tonight at Pauley Pavivlion to play their 49th all-time game in this series. The teams last met on Dec. 19, 2009, when Notre Dame beat the Bruins in South Bend, 84-73.

Both teams looked at this game as an opportunity to get a quality win. The the Irish were coming off a two-point loss to a quality Oklahoma team in New York while UCLA had won two straight.

First Half

To start the game, both teams were content in shooting from behind the arc, as they combined to shoot 10 three-pointers going into the first media timeout. Cody Riley showed a nice stroke and hit one of UCLA’s two made three point shots, and the score was tied 8-8 early.

Out of the media timeout, UCLA went on a quick 7-0 run to build the lead to 15-8, as the Bruins’ defense also tightened up. UCLA then went on their own scoring drought of over two minutes where the Irish were able to get back into the game and, at the 6:12 mark. the Bruins were up only 22-20.

Both teams struggled offensively for the rest of the first half and, luckily, UCLA struggled less than the Irish as the basketball that was being played at Pauley Pavilion by both teams was ugly to say the least. UCLA missed two dunks in a two-minute span and, according to ESPN, the Bruins were 6 of 20 on dunks and layups up to that point.

UCLA was able to put a run together to finish off the half and the true ugly in the first half belonged to the Irish as they simply could not score. Notre Dame went on one of the longer scoring droughts I have ever seen and didn’t score over the last 7:40 of the first half, while the Bruins were able to do enough to go into the locker room up, 31-20.

The Irish finished the half shooting 23% from the field and just 20% from behind the arc. UCLA was not that much better shooting 32% from the field but 40% from behind the arc.

Second Half

UCLA started off the half with Jaylen Hands dishing to Kris Wilkes on a curl to the hoop. He was fouled and converted the free throw for a three-point play to put the Bruins up early, 34-20. The Irish finally scored after more than nine minutes of not scoring when Rex Pflueger hit a three and then on their next possession John Mooney converted on a three point play, putting the Bruins were up 34-26 early in the second half.

Notre Dame seemed to find their stroke and went on a 7-0 run as Mooney and Pflueger scored 11 of the first 13 points for the Fighting Irish, but they were still down 39-33 at the first media timeout.

Hands finally decided to score when he hit is first basket of the game with 14:36 left and that opened up the flood gates for Hands as he added seven more points to help the Bruins build a 50-43 lead.

But, Notre Dame wouldn’t go away and they went on a 7-0 run to pull within a point of UCLA at the third media timeout with 7:51 left in the game. Out of the timeout, David Singleton fouled Prentiss Hubb, and the Bruins went into the penalty. Hubb hit both FT’s and the Irish went up 54-53. T.J. Gibbs then hit an open three-pointer and the Irish were up by four. On UCLA’s next possession, Prince Ali was fouled on a three-point attempt, and Ali hit one of his three shots from the line to close the Irish lead to three.

The Bruins continued missing easy shots and Notre Dame was able to extend their lead to five points, 62-57, with 3:14 to play. On UCLA’s next possession, Ali was fouled again on a three-pointer with 2:17 to go. This time, Ali was able to hit all three free throws to tie it up, 62-62.

Both teams struggled to score the remainder of the game until the final sequence. That sequence started with Hands missing a long three-pointer with about 37 seconds remaining in the game and the score still tied 62-62. The Irish rebounded the ball with about a three-second difference between the clocks. Hubb drove to the basket for the Irish with about 10 seconds left. He got to the basket with a spin, but, out of nowhere, Jalen Hill made the defensive play of the game as he emphatically blocked Hubb’s shot with six seconds left. Ali grabbed the loose ball and moved it down the right side of the court before dishing it to a trailing Kris Wilkes who drained a three to put the Bruins up 65-62 with 0.9 second left.

Notre Dame couldn’t score on their last possession and the Bruins escaped with a 65-62 victory.

The Bruins were paced by Wilkes’ 14 points, and Hands’ 12 points and 11 assists. The Fighting Irish were led by Rex Pflueger’s 14 points.

Next up for the Bruins is a December 15th game at Pauley Pavilion against the Belmont Bruins. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 pm PT.

UCLA Player Grades

Moses Brown: D
Brown only played 22 minutes tonight with absolutely no foul trouble. He didn’t play that many minutes because he wasn’t very effective. Brown missed multiple easy shots, shot 0 for 4 from the FT line, and only had one block.

Jaylen Hands: C+
Hands shot 5 of 17, but had 11 assists. He is looking for guys more, but tonight was not a good night for Hands, hence the C grade.

Prince Ali: C
I’ll give Ali credit for hitting those huge FT’s at the end of the game and the best play he made all game, and maybe all year, was not taking that last shot and passing to Wilkes.

Kris Wilkes: C+
Wilkes hit the game winner, and played pretty well tonight as he fought through cramps to end the game. I’ll give him credit for being on the court to end the game as he could have easily been on the bench.

Jalen Hill: C+
Hill’s block to end the game was pretty much the play of the year for the Bruins up to this point. Wilkes’ shot doesn’t happen if Hill didn’t come over to block that shot.

Chris Smith: D
One of the first games of the year where Smith was pretty much invisible for most of the game.

Jules Bernard: D
Bernard played only 11 minutes tonight and wasn’t much of a factor tonight.

David Singleton: D
Singleton only played 10 minutes tonight and didn’t do enough to be a factor.

Cody Riley : C-
This guy does some things that really makes you say, “Wow!” Then, it seems like he’s not even on the court for periods of time. His potential is through the roof. The one post-up and drop step power move that we saw early made Bill Walton say that the Bruins should run that play all the time.

Go Bruins!