Karma, selfishness, free throws, and strange coaching all came out yesterday afternoon to lead to an epic collapse by the UCLA Bruins. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Kirt Karagthorpe tells it like this:
The Bruins know how Utah feels. In January, UCLA came from nine points down in the last minute of regulation and won in overtime at Oregon. Saturday’s turnaround was slightly less sudden than that one, but the Utes will savor it just as much.
In a year of terrible losses this one hurt the most. Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the Daily News explains:
David Singleton was doubled over with his hands on his knees. Jaylen Hands covered his face with his jersey. . . .
The Bruins blew a 22-point second-half lead, squandering their best half of basketball of the season and a pair of career-highs from Hands and Jaylen Hill. Hands scored a career-high 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting and Hill had 12 on 6-of-7 shooting.
This is going to be a hard blow to come back from. After the game, Interim Coach Murry Bartow said:
Obviously, we’re about as down as you can be right this second, but I think after a day and a half of rest, and we’ll come back and try to analyze what happened in the last 10 minutes of the game.
Jaylen Hands added:
We lost. We had a big lead. We let it go. Obviously, it hurts a lot. Not to downplay your question, but it hurts a lot. It’s been a wild season, so it hurts a lot.
While both Hands and Jalen Hill played great, some of the other players remained the same. And, maybe, that’s why the Karma broke that way. LA Times beat writer Ben Bolch wrote:
The Bruins withstood an early second-half surge by the Utes (13-10, 7-4), going ahead by 22 points with 12:10 left after freshman guard Jules Bernard bulled ahead for a layup without looking at wide-open teammate Jaylen Hands on the wing. Then it was as if the basketball gods decided to punish the Bruins for the selfish display.
More on the ending from Bolch:
UCLA looked like it was going to hold on after sophomore forward Kris Wilkes (17 points) made two free throws with 2:51 left to give his team a 13-point lead. The Bruins opened the door by missing five of their next six free throws but were ahead by six points with 35 seconds left after Hands made two in a row.
Utah scored the next four points, benefiting from a Wilkes inbounds pass that was intercepted, but UCLA’s Prince Ali broke the press and found Cody Riley for a dunk that extended the Bruins’ advantage to 89-85 with 16 seconds left.
Utah’s Both Gach responded with a 30-footer that made it 89-88 with eight seconds left before the game took a curious turn: One of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country turned the game into a battle of free throws.
And that set up the ending described in the Daily Bruin by Hanson Wang:
With UCLA up one point, freshman guard David Singleton walked up to the free throw line for two attempts with five seconds left, but missed the first and made the second.
Utah inbounded the ball and Van Dyke’s rainbow attempt swished through the net as the horn sounded.
UCLA ended up losing after its best half of the season in which they shot 70% with some nice passing. Afterwards, Kris Wilkes said:
Our main focus the last day or so—we’re getting back to assisting the ball a lot more. That was our main focus tonight, getting 20 assists. We did achieve that goal. But, ultimately, a lot of that was in the first half. I think, in the second half, we didn’t do nearly as much we did in the first half, which obviously helped us create that big lead. That’s been our main focus and we didn’t do it too much in the second half.
But let’s get to some of the coaching decisions. Moses Brown was benched for all but the last five seconds. Bartow describes it this way:
Obviously, Moses didn’t play. He’s gonna have to learn to be a little more punctual, for me. I love Moses, but the bottom line is he’s got to learn to be on time, and I’m just not gonna put up with it. So that’s why he didn’t play [until the last five seconds.]. . . . In retrospect, maybe shouldn’t have done it. I thought we were gonna be three up. I thought we were going to get back into a zone and try to extend it. I just wanted to get one more big body into the game, so that’s why we put him in.
On the decision to foul late, Bartow said:
We didn’t execute it right. That’s all I would say. I think it’s the right play. I think statistically, it’s the right play. We didn’t execute it correctly. We fouled obviously way too quickly. When you’re three up with that much time on the clock, I think as the ball is crossing half court, four or five seconds on the clock, [fouling] is statistically, probably, the right play. We didn’t execute it right because we fouled way too quickly.
You know, it was on me. It was our intention to foul, but I did it a little too early. It happened; I can’t go back and change it. I did it a little too early, so that’s on me.
And, thus, it was a near instant replay of the win at Oregon with the script flipped. Wang writes:
The Bruins were up by three points with eight seconds left in the game – almost the exact same scenario as their second half double-digit comeback against Oregon in January – and also elected to foul after the baseline inbounds pass.
Karma is a bitch. Selfishness catches up to you. One great half does not win a game. The last word goes to Thuc Nhi Ngyuen:
This game is so drunk.— Thuc Nhi Nguyen (@thucnhi21) February 10, 2019