Before tonight’s game, there was much discussion in Bruins Nation about this trip, the last three games, UCLA’s record under Alford on the road, and what exactly UCLA had to do to secure a birth in the NCAA tournament.
On Monday, DCBruins shared an interesting article on Alford’s year-by-year record for two-game Pac-12 road trips. Alford was 10-9 (7-8 non-Lonzo years) on the road in first game pairs and 6-13 (2-13 non-Lonzo) in the second game.
So based on this stat, if history were a predictor of future fortunes, then UCLA had a better chance of nabbing this first road game against the 9-6 Utah Utes, than they did in the second game of this road trip. However, the Utes came in sporting an impressive 10-2 home record, a four-game winning streak and, even more importantly, their own NCAA tourney hopes.
UCLA started the game moving the ball and getting easy baskets on offense heading into the first media time out. The problem for the Bruins was that Utah scored all eight of their points in the paint as the Bruins struggled to defend down low.
The Bruins’ offense continued to be efficient with the ball as they had five assists on their eight made field goals heading into the second media timeout. Their early offensive prowess was highlighted by the fact that each Bruin that received minutes had scored a FG at the 11:52 mark. UCLA had a 22-15 lead at that point.
UCLA, then, went on one of their UCLA funks. They had 4 timeouts in the next 5:38 minutes and had a 2:31 scoring drought that allowed Utah to claw right back into the game and tie it up 24-24 at the 6:51 mark. Welsh stopped the drought with an outside jumper to put UCLA back up 26-24. Then the Utes went on an 11-3 run to go up 35-29 at the 4:19 mark.
UCLA answered with their own run as Holiday and Hands hit back-to-back jumpers from behind the arc to pull the Bruins back to within two of the Utes and forced the Utes to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Bruins decided to play maybe their worst basketball of the game on both offense and defense. Air-balls, missed layups and missed jumpers coupled with horrible defense allowed the Utes to go on a 7-0 run in the last 2:27 to go into the locker room up on the Bruins 47-40.
UCLA’s defense figured out a way to let the Utes hit 64% of their field goals in the first half, and 54% from behind the arc. The bad defense could not be isolated to any one player as the Utes also scored 18 first half points in the paint.
The Utes started the second half where they left off extending their first half 7-0 run with another 7-0 run to extend the lead to 54-40.
UCLA got out of their zone defense and started to string together some defensive stops to pulled within six, 61-55, but a charging foul on Prince Ali right before the media timeout slowed UCLA’s push.
UCLA, specifically Aaron Holiday, continued to try and keep the UCLA Bruins close, as he scored in multiple ways for the Bruins. At the 2:50 mark, Holiday hit Welsh in the corner for a 3-point shot to bring the Bruins within one at 70-69. This prompted a Utah timeout.
Out of the timeout, UCLA had a solid defensive effort against the Utes and, as the shot clock was expiring, Parker Van Dyke hit a 3-pointer to put the Utes up 73-69. Holiday turned the ball over and the Utes came down and hit two free throws to make it 75-69. On the next Bruins’ possession, Wilkes hit a 3-point shot at the 1:13 mark to pull the Bruins within three. On Utah’s next possession, once again, as the shot clock was going down, Van Dyke hit a desperation three-pointer and the Utes led 78-72.
But, UCLA was not finished. Goloman answered Van Dyke’s three with one of his own. The Utes’ Justin Bibbins hit two free throws to put Utah up 80-75. But, Goloman turned the ball over and it looked to be over. UCLA fouled David Collette but he missed the front end of the one-and-one. Holiday immediately came down and hit a deep three-point shot to bring UCLA within two, 80-78. The Utes drew up a great in-bounds play and got Bibbins the ball. He was immediately fouled and sank both FT’s with 9.1 seconds left to put the Utes up 82-78, and that sealed the win for the Utah as the final score was 84-78.
The Utah Utes were led by David Collette’s 21 points, but Van Dyke’s 18 points, and his big shots down the stretch really carried the Utes to the win down the stretch.
As usual, the Bruins were led by Aaron Holiday as he scored 23 points on 9-19 shooting.
The Bruins now must regroup and somehow pull out a win against the Colorado Buffaloes on Sunday to get that often talked about road split.
UCLA Player Grades
Aaron Holiday: B
Holiday did about as much as he could do to help the Bruins. His defense on Bibbins can be questioned.
Thomas Welsh: C-
Welsh just looked out of it at times. He was basically abused multiple times down low as the Utes outscored the Bruins 30-20 in the paint. I know not all of that was on Welsh but some of it was.
Prince Ali: F
Back-to-back charging calls in the second half, need I say more. I want Alec Wulff.
Jaylen Hands: D
He made some plays, but also did what Hands does...bad shots and bad turnovers.
Kris Wilkes: D
I’m going to start calling him the invisible man. Because when you watch the Bruins, Wilkes just disappears sometimes. He’s way too good to do that. I expect more.
Alex Olesinski: C
Ole actually played some nice minutes tonight.
Gyorgy Goloman: D
He was part of the reason the Bruins gave up 30 points in the paint.
Chris Smith: D
Low grade based more on limited minutes, but I would sure like for Smith to come in and just say to himself that he is going to shut down somebody on the other team, and never worry about scoring again this year.