I watched last night’s win by the UCLA Bruins over the Stanford Cardinal in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament with my Bruin buddy that I have been watching games together with for over 30 years. I told him that Bartow was the hardest coach to figure out that I had ever watched. His rotations don’t have a pattern that I can’t discern and, in the pregame interview, he stated that the key was playing Brown 30+ minutes. I was expressing my frustration that this is a game he should play man-to-man not zone and Brown can’t play man.
Then, as Ben Bolch explains in the LA Times:
UCLA is testing the theory that you can find salvation with an end-of-the-season tweak.
Almost strictly a zone defense team under interim coach Murry Bartow, the Bruins played man to man in the second half of their final regular-season game and liked it so much they brought that wrinkle with them to the Pac-12 Conference tournament.
What followed was one of their finest defensive showings of the season.
UCLA put Stanford on such a lockdown for most of their first-round game Wednesday evening at T-Mobile Arena that even a sloppy finish could not tarnish the seventh-seeded Bruins’ 79-72 victory over the 10th-seeded Cardinal.
Who woulda thunk it? Oh, well, almost everyone. My friend countered that the good thing about Bartow, unlike most UCLA coaches, especially Alford, is that he varies his rotations. Last night was a great example as Murry “seat of his pants” Bartow only played Pac-12 All-Freshman team member Moses Brown 14 minutes. While Jaylen Hands got the headlines for his double-double, the other key to the game may have been the other Jalen, Jalen Hill. After the game, Bartow explained:
Moses Brown, I love him, but Jalen Hill was just playing better. So we played Jalen Hill more at the five because of that. Again, I think everybody that talks to me knows I’m a big Moses Brown fan. But we’re going to play the guys that are playing the best. If you look at our minutes tonight, Jaylen played 35, Chris played 35, Kris played 33, and David played 33, and Jalen Hill played 26. We stuck with that five a lot. Again, nothing necessarily that Moses didn’t do well, it was just Jalen Hill had a double-double tonight and played really well. And we just stuck with that group.
Jaylen Hands added that Hill was a key against Stanford’s late comeback:
on him and Jalen Hill each making six of seven free throws, and how that helps the team
“I think it contributed a lot. They fought us down the stretch, so we had to make sure we made our free throws to secure the game. [Jalen] J-Hill is a big, so for him to make six out of seven, he’s really good.”
And the AP points out UCLA withstood Stanford’s furious rally because they made free throws:
UCLA hit 10 of 12 free throws in the final 1:05 to earn a spot in Thursday’s quarterfinals against No. 2 seed Arizona State.
How many times this year have we been able to write that? If I have been neglectful in talking about Jaylen Hands game, maybe it’s because Hands dominating a game is becoming a regular, if not consistent, occurrence. Hands has had some very good games down the stretch in conference play. Ryan Smith notes in an article for the Daily Bruin:
Sophomore guard Jaylen Hands did most of the heavy lifting for the Bruins, recording his fifth double-double of the season with a 22-point, 11-rebound performance. It also marked Hands’ second double-double in his last four outings after he posted a 21-point, 10-assist night against USC on Feb. 28.
The win came at a big cost with the loss of the Bruins most consistent and arguably best all-around player David Singleton being hurt as Thuc Nhi Ngyuen notes:
The guard from Bishop Montgomery High fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in the final 17 seconds of the win while closing out on a 3-point shooter in what was then a nine-point game.
Singleton scored eight points on Wednesday with six rebounds. The 6-foot-4 guard was praised by teammates and coaches for his work ethic and 3-point shooting. He led the Pac-12 in 3-point shooting percentage at 44.6 percent and earned the nickname “Sniper” from the coaching staff for his long-range marksmanship.
So, UCLA is now down two guards with Prince Ali also hurt. It seems likely the season will end tonight against Arizona State, but with this team who knows? And, I mean that literally. Last night was, arguably, UCLA’s best effort on defense but the Bruins let up in the second half. The AP describes it:
The Bruins were superb defensively until the midpoint of the second half, then had a hard time stopping the Cardinal. They’ll need to finish better to have a chance at beating Arizona State.
What happen at the midpoint of the second half? Thuc Nhi Nyguen explains:
The Bruins reverted to their zone defense in the second half, and the Cardinal crawled back, even as they were behind by as many as 26 points midway through the second half.
So our defense was “superb” until the midpoint of the second half, then we went to zone and Stanford started to come back. Thanks, Coach Bartow. But, that’s just it. Bartow deserves credit for sticking with Hill over Moses but blame for suddenly going zone. What does this mean? Who knows? I mean that literally. I could see us beating the Arizona State Sun Devils or losing by 20. I think Bernard will start for Singleton, but would not be surprised to see forgotten Cody Riley in an “impossible” lineup with Brown and Hill.
By the way, last night’s win means that the Bruins will finish the season with a winning record.