I don’t even know what to write here.
UCLA should have won this game handily. They had a 22 point lead with 12 minutes to go, and came away with a loss. Honestly, it’d be sad if it wasn’t so obvious that it would happen.
Credit to Utah here; they could have absolutely just rolled over midway through the second half, but they kept battling back, and slowly but surely chipped away at the lead. UCLA then did its best to help the Utes out by switching to an anemic offense, and then missing a host of free throws down the stretch.
Let me quickly talk about the first half, because it was honestly one of the best halves of basketball the Bruins have played all season. They were unselfish with the ball, minimized their turnovers, and played solid defense, switching between man and zone to keep the Utes on their toes. The Bruins as a team had 13 assists to four turnovers in the first half, and shot a ridiculous 70% from the field, with 32 of their 49 first half points coming in the paint.
Then you get to the second half, where UCLA did not play bad to start - as stated, they were able to grow their lead to 22 points. But things began to slow down offensively, as the Bruins only had seven assists in the second half, to go with eight turnovers. And the Utes absolutely killed the Bruins on the boards in the second half, outrebounding the Bruins 23 to 15 in the second half. Utah actually shot a bit better in the second half, but those points had to come in the paint, as the Utes shot worse from distance, but were able to put in 26 points in the paint.
None of this would have mattered if UCLA had just hit their free throws down the stretch, but the UCLA shooters put together a collectively un-clutch performance from the line late, going 7-13 in the final 2+ minutes. In fact, the final three minutes was just a series of brain farts from the Bruins; Kris Wilkes threw the ball away on deep inbounds passes twice. Jaylen Hands did the smart thing (foul without letting Utah take a shot) but in a dumb way (doing it immediately after an inbound rather than letting him get up court and kill time). The Bruins ran one offensive set where they assumed Utah would foul them, and when no foul came Wilkes was forced to throw up a bad shot. No one boxed out on free throws, allowing Utah to steal more points.
I guess the problem is that I really don’t have the energy to get upset by this anymore. The season is a lost cause in so many ways, and all these losses are really doing is showing that Dan Guerrero utterly failed as an administrator by hiring Steve Alford and letting him torpedo the program in the first place. The faster this season ends and the Bruins land a good head coach, the better.
Jaylen Hands led the Bruins with 27 points (career high) and seven assists. He also tied Cody Riley for the team high in rebounds with five. Timmy Allen led the Utes with 22 points.
- Player of the Game: Jaylen Hands - One of the worst parts of this loss is that it wasted what was just a phenomenal performance from Hands. 27 points on 8-12 shooting, including 4-6 from deep, to go along with seven assists and five rebounds, is a phenomenal job, especially since he only had two turnovers in 36 minutes. A Jaylen Hands that plays this well and in control for the rest of the season could be one that warrants draft consideration.
- Area of Concern: My Sanity - Seriously, if this season ended tomorrow, it would not be soon enough.
- No Moses Brown, Actual Accountability - I didn’t have a good spot to put this in, but credit to Murray Bartow for holding the team accountable. Brown reportedly showed up late to the morning shootaround, so he was essentially suspended for the game (he came in for the final 5 seconds). In addition, Kris Wilkes had a bad stretch in the middle of the second half that caused Bartow to sub him out rather than keep him in the game. These are small things (though considering the rebounding issues, the team absolutely could have used Brown), but Bartow doing things that actual coaches do all the time is a welcome sight in Westwood after these past 6 years.
UCLA will next play on Wednesday, when they head up to the Bay Area to take on UC Berkeley. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:00 pm PT.