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UCLA Men’s Basketball Falls to the Utah Utes, 92-81

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UCLA trailed by as many as 27 points in the first half and poor coaching was the primary reason.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

A first round bye in the Pac-12 Conference Tournament? That went out the window for the UCLA Bruins when the Colorado Buffaloes beat the Southern Cal Trojans late Saturday afternoon. Based on what I read this week, it seems like most people could care less about that bye. The only thing that matters for most fans right now is who is going to be coaching this team next year. Based on tonight’s UCLA coaching exhibition, that change can’t come quick enough.

That feeling of apathy was probably compounded for Bruin fans when they found out an hour or so before tip that Moses Brown would not play because of a violation of the student-athlete code of conduct. Brown just refused to play against the Utes this year as he barely played in the first game due to being late for the morning shootaround.

With all of that being said, UCLA still had a game to play today and I, for one, was curious to see exactly how the Bruins would come out against the Utah Utes today.

First Half

The game started out like UCLA fans might have expected—with a Utah blitz. The Utes started the game with a 16-6 run, with Sedrick Barefield hitting three early three’s during that run, with the last three-pointer by Barefield prompting a Murry Bartow timeout at the 16:04 mark.

As the half progressed, Utah continued to put on a clinic on how to beat UCLA’s zone defense. They consistently penetrated the zone, passed beautifully and, heading into the under eight minute media timeout, had hit seven of twelve shots from behind the arc for a 30-20 lead.

Out of the media timeout, Utah continued their hot shooting and went on an 11-2 run to extend the lead to 39-22 and forced another Bruin timeout.

The timeout didn’t do anything to cool the Utes down as they went on another run to extend the lead to 47-24 at the 3:32 mark.

It sounds like a broken record for the Bruins, but, as soon as you think they can’t play any worse, they come out and meet our low expectations with flying colors. It got so bad that Ben Bolch of the LA Times pretty much turned the game off. Oh yeah, he couldn’t turn the game off since he made the trip to the Huntsman Center in Utah.

The Utes went into the half up 51-31, as they shot 11 of 20 from behind the arc, while the Bruins went 0 for 7.

Second Half

Bartow made a couple of lineup changes to start the half as he benched the scoreless Jaylen Hands and the scoreless Chris Smith and started Alex Olesinski and David Singleton.

Bartow made some additional changes and, in a strike of genius for Bartow, he went to some man defense. The change sparked the Bruins a little, and a three-point shot by Kris Wilkes at the 16:53 mark cut the Utes’ lead to 57-46 and actually prompted a Utah timeout.

UCLA made a pretty good defensive stand out of the timeout in a series of plays seemed to be the turning point of the game, but Utah’s Riley Battin got a defensive rebound and put-back. On the Bruins’ next possession, in typical UCLA fashion, Kris WIlkes came down and shot an uncalled for deep three while Barefield came down scored and was fouled. The Utes went on to reestablish their lead and pushed it back to 20 points at the 14:30 mark.

The Bruins tried to get back into the game again, as they continued to stay in their man defense and Utah struggled to score for a stretch of close to three minutes. A Wilkes drive to the basket at the 7:27 mark gave UCLA a chance to cut the lead to single digits, but Wilkes missed the front end of the one-and-one. However, on the Bruins’ next possession, David Singleton hit a three to pull them within 12 points, 75-67. Unfortunately for UCLA, that was as close as the Bruins got.

The Utes finished off UCLA, 92-81. Utah was led by Barefield’s 29 points and the Utes shot 17 of 38 from behind the arc.

Final Thoughts

There is so much blame to go around for a UCLA basketball season to go as this one has gone, but today’s game places a glaring magnifying glass on the horrible coaching that has gone on in Westwood for too long. For Murry Bartow and staff to go the entire first half in zone defense against the best three-point shooting team in the Pac-12 is coaching malpractice at its finest. Utah went up 27 points in the first half and scored 51 points while the Bruins stayed in their zone.

The Bruins will play the Stanford Cardinal Wednesday, March 13th at 6:00 pm PST in the first round of the Pac-12 Conference Tournament.

UCLA Player Grades

Moses Brown: DNP
Either this is going to be a growing year for Brown or it’s going to be a “going year” for him...time will tell.

Kris Wilkes: C
Wilkes led the Bruins in scoring, but he did so based on volume.

Jaylen Hands: F
He was so bad in this game that Bartow benched him to start the second half. This periodic chatter that Hands will be drafted in the upcoming NBA draft is absurd.

Chris Smith: F
In my opinion, there has been no Bruin that has had a more disappointing season than Smith. He played six minutes in tonight’s game.

David Singleton: C
Singleton is one of UCLA’s best all around players. He plays hard, smart, and should not come off the floor very often.

Jules Bernard: C
Jules played his typical aggressive game. I love the way he plays and he will learn to control his game even more in the years to come.

Jalen Hill: C
Hill played a pretty solid game, if that is possible in this type of game. He was active early and finished with a double-double.

Cody Riley: C-
Limited minutes for Riley tonight, but, when he is in the game, I always appreciate his effort and still see potential in his game.

Alex Olesinski: C
Alex’s best game of the year, as he logged his most minutes.