Sometimes writing these recaps is an interesting affair and can get pretty personal, so let me start by saying: I’m not that upset by this loss.
Don’t get me wrong. There were many points where the UCLA Bruins really should have put the Hofstra Pride away. At one point in the first half, the Bruins had a 13-point lead and looked set up to cruise to another easy victory. Even in the second half, UCLA again raced out to an 8-point lead and seemed set up to run away with the game. But Hofstra is a veteran team that refused to quit and they had two players in Desure Buie and Jalen Ray, who absolutely went off and hit shots no matter how good UCLA’s defense was.
Maybe we should start there. UCLA’s defense was actually fairly good in this game. The final stats don’t do them justice, but UCLA really did play solid defense and contested many Hofstra shots. It just happened that those Hofstra shots kept falling. Sometimes, good defense gets beat by better offense. It happens.
That’s where we get to interesting fact #2, which is that, for most of this game, the UCLA offense was the side of the ball that was carrying the team. UCLA shot 50% in the first half, and, in general, dominated Hofstra on the inside, outscoring the Pride 42-12 in the paint overall. The Bruins also dominated on the boards, holding a 36-27 rebounding advantage, and held a 22-12 assist advantage. That UCLA was able to have a solid game offensively despite almost no help from Tyger Campbell, Chris Smith, and Prince Ali is almost impressive. Jalen Hill became something of a one-man wrecking crew down low and the Pride just had no answer for him.
Really, this game swung on two things: three-point shooting and free throws. The Pride shot 50% from distance on 24 attempts compared to 27.3% on 22 attempts for the Bruins. At the charity stripe, Hofstra was able to get to 30 free throw attempts compared to just 18 for the Bruins, which is an interesting split considering how much of their damage UCLA did inside comparatively. Sometimes, it’s the little things that can shift a game.
Let’s circle back around to talking about me again. Like I said, I’m not particularly upset by this loss. Perhaps it’s still the new coach sheen dulling the pain, as even in a loss I was pleasantly surprised by Mick Cronin being willing to bench two of his best players in Campbell and Smith early due to bad plays. Maybe it’s due to Hofstra just hitting a ton of contested shots. Or maybe it’s due to a recognition that an early season loss could really help this team develop and break some bad habits. No loss is ever truly good, but at least in this case, I’m not that upset by it.
Jaylen Hill led the Bruins with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Tyger Campbell led the team with 5 assists. Desure Buie led the Pride with 29 points.
- Player of the Game: Jaylen Hill - Maybe the truly disappointing part of this game was that it wasted an absolute gem of a performance from Jaylen Hill. Hill was a monster in this game, hitting shots inside, gobbling up rebounds, and just being a general menace. Hofstra had no answer for him all game, except to try and focus on limiting the contributions of every other UCLA player.
- Bench for learning....except for Ali - Mick Cronin did not hesitate to use the bench as a learning tool for his team, except when it came to Prince Ali. Ali truly seems to have some level of carte blanche that none of his teammates seems to have earned yet and it’s bizarre to watch. Ali had one of his net negative games where he jacked up contested shots way too early in the shot clock, committed turnovers and lazy passes, and just seemed to be a human momentum stopper for the Bruins. Yet he was second on the team in minutes played with 30. Ali has never proven in his UCLA career that he truly deserves top consideration on this team. So, it is at least interesting to see Cronin afford him that early.
- Good defense, but lacking disruption - UCLA’s defense up to this point has been very good and was adept at forcing turnovers. But Hofstra showed that there is still a ways to go on that front, especially against veteran-led teams. The Pride only had seven turnovers in this game and, when UCLA’s defense isn’t generating opposing turnovers at a good volume, they can run into issues.
The Bruins will now travel to Hawai’i for the Maui Jim Maui Invitational. They will take on the BYU Cougars in a first round matchup on Monday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 pm PT.