What an interesting week it has been for NCAA Basketball, Pac-12 Basketball and UCLA Basketball. Coming off the heels of two devastating losses in Utah and Colorado, the cry has returned in Bruins Nation to get rid of Alford. Then, last Tuesday evening the UCLA Bruins received a commitment from Shareef O’Neal. Bruins Nation was ecstatic, and we collectively forgot about Alford’s ineptitude for about two seconds as O’Neal’s commitment boosted UCLA’s 2018 class to third in the country, according to 247 Sports’ Composite Rankings.
Some believe that the 2018 recruiting class coup by Alford has saved his job for one more year, while others believe that a loss to Southern Cal and an early departure from the Pac-12 Tournament might give many Bruins fans what they want, which is a 2018-2019 UCLA Basketball Team led by somebody other than Alford.
The Bruins (19-10, 10-7 Pac-12 Conference) went into tonight’s game actually a half game behind Utah for a fourth place tie in the conference since Utah beat Colorado earlier in the day. A UCLA win also meant a first round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament, and a loss meant a six seed in the tournament, Lastly, UCLA and the Southern Cal Trojans were considered by many to be on the outside looking in for births in the NCAA Tournament. So to say tonight’s game was a big game might have been the understatement of the year for UCLA Basketball.
Going into the first TV timeout it was clear that Aaron Holiday was going to try and put his stamp on this game. Holiday came out aggressive and hit 2-3 from behind the arc for a quick six points, but UCLA trailed early 9-8.
Going into the next media timeout it was also VERY clear that the Bruins had no plan to attack the Trojans, and they were going to either live or die from the three point line, Out of the 12 shots by UCLA, 8 of them were from behind the arc. One even included Thomas Welsh banging the side of the backboard with his three point attempt. Meanwhile, the Trojans were content with moving the ball and driving to the basket and leading the Bruins 19-12.
The Trojans continued to attack the UCLA Bruins and dominated the Bruins in the paint. At the 8:38 point of the game the Trojans had five dunks. When they were not dunking on the Bruins they were driving and dishing for open uncontested shots, and at the third media timeout the Trojans were dominating the Bruins on the boards and on the scoreboard 30-23.
Out of the media timeout, the Bruins went on a quick 11-0 run as Holiday, Wilkes and Alec Wulff hit a three pointers and Prince Ali scored on a lay-up. Amazingly, the Bruins were up at the 5:12 mark 31-30. The Trojans stemmed the tide with two free throws, but Wilkes answered right back with a driving lay-up to put the Bruins back up 33-32.
UCLA and the Trojans ended out the half going back and fourth with neither team able to extend the lead. The Trojans went into the locker-room up 43-40.
First Half Take-Aways
- Thomas Welsh was invisible and teetered on being a liability on the floor. Two points on 1-4 shooting from the field and overall horrible defense.
- The Bruins were 8-17 from behind the arc, so they were staying alive by the three. Three-point shot is the great equalizer sometimes.
- Wilkes and Holiday were the ONLY Bruins that decided to show up in the first half and Alec Wulff.
- Prince Ali was 1-7 and continues to be an abomination on the floor.
- UCLA cannot defend
- No steals; no blocks
How we are only three points down after playing like this shows...well I’m not sure what it shows.
The Trojans came out of after the half and continued to bully the Bruins around the basket securing both defensive and offensive rebounds and going on a 11-6 run to extend their lead 54-46 going into the first media timeout.
Out of the media timeout, UCLA went on a run with Holiday splitting a pair of free throws, Welsh hitting his first three-point shot of the night, and Holiday drove for a lay-up that pulled the Bruins within two, 56-54 and prompted a Southern Cal timeout at the 13:38 mark.
Out of the timeout, Jordan McLaughlin immediately hit back-to-back jump shots to put the Trojans up 60-54. UCLA pulled back withing two at the media timeout 60-58.
Out of that media timeout, UCLA put together a run that was spurred by glimpses of defense, and the play-making of their best player, Aaron Holiday. UCLA went up 65-61 and prompted a Trojan timeout after Holiday hit a huge three point shot to extend the Bruins’ largest lead. Chimezie Metu then missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and Wilkes immediately hit another jumper to put UCLA up 67-61.
UCLA continued to pour it on with Welsh hitting his patented baseline jumper, and Alex Olesinski hitting a three point shot to put the bruins up 72-63.
The Trojans called a timeout and Aaron Holiday immediately turned the ball over on the Bruins’ next possession. Jordan McLaughlin then made a 3-point jump shot and hit two free throws to pull the Trojans within 72-68 with 4:21 left. On UCLA’s next possession, Holiday was fouled as he drove to the basket and went to the line. Holiday converted 1-2 free throws for the second time of the night to put the Bruins up 73-68. The Trojans could not answer, and Smith was fouled on a drive to the basket and hit 1-2 free throws to put the Bruins up 74-68 with 3:49 remaining in the game. On Southern Cal’s next possession, Chimezie Metu got a defensive rebound and took it right back up and was fouled by Thomas Welsh and headed to the line. Metu hit both free throws to pull the Trojans within four with 3:49 remaining. Holiday then came off a screen and hit a three point shot to put the Bruins up 77-70, and on the very next UCLA possession Holiday drove to the basket for the play of the game and hit a miraculous shot to put the Bruins up 79-70 with 2:35 remaining. On Southern Cal’s next possession, Chimezie Metu missed a layup, and this miss seemed to take the air out of the building. Steve Alford and the Bruins then called a timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Bruins drew up a play that somehow gave Prince Ali a shot that was absolutely devoured by Metu, but luckily for the Bruins the Trojans couldn’t convert on their next possession, and the Bruins sealed the game at the line and won on the road against that other team from Los Angeles, 83-72.
Second Half Take Aways
- The Bruins outscored the Trojans 43-29. That means that they played some defense, and they actually did.
- Aaron Holiday put this team on his back, and while last weekend hurt his POY chances, tonight put him right back in the conversation.
- This second half was the half that the Bruins needed to not only win the game but cement their 11 seed in the NCAA tourney.
- Live by the three and die by the three. UCLA shot 48%...They lived! Fools gold?
UCLA Player Grades
Aaron Holiday: A+
This is the type of game that makes Aaron Holiday one of two names that will be considered for Pac-12 Player of the Year. He willed this team to victory and pretty much hit every big shot that was needed.
Prince Ali: F
1-8 for 2 points. Need I say more?
Thomas Welsh: C-
This might have been one of the worst games that I have seen Welsh play. With that being said, he hit a huge baseline jumper and grabbed a big offensive rebound at the 1:29 mark of the second half to help cement the Bruins’ victory.
Kris Wilkes: A-
Wilkes and Holiday were the only ones that showed up in the first half and are the ONLY reason we stayed in the game.
Gyorgy Goloman: C
GG played a typical GG game. He sprinkled in some big shots, some defense, and some head scratcher type plays. But hey, it’s GG.
Alex Olesinski: C
At the 6:24 mark Ole hit a huge three for the Bruins.
Chris Smith: C
You see what this kid can do, and the potential that he has. He played a pretty solid game.
Alec Wulff: B
Hey, when Alec came in during the first half, the Bruins played their best ball of the first half, and Wulff added a three point shot and shot 100% from the field tonight.