Chris Smith and Jalen Hill provided enough offense as the UCLA Bruins threw the basketball equivalent of a shutout holding the UC Berkeley Golden Bears to just 40 points. That number is deceptive as UC Berkeley made 5 of its last 7 shots. Berkeley was stuck on 25 for much of the second half and until that last streak was 12-49 for the game.
In a sign of things to come, UCLA’s defense was good to start the game forcing a shot clock violation. The Golden Bears started 1-7.
The Bruins scored inside to start with Hill scoring 9 of UCLA’s first 11. At the under 12 timeout, it was UCLA, 11, Hill, 9, and Berkeley, 7.
UCLA extended that lead to 16-9 as Smith hit a three and Jaime Jaquez Jr. scored on a jumper.
UCLA’s defense was good, but the offense was not. The Bruins slowed the game down and outside of Hill inside, UCLA struggled to find another scorer or any offensive flow in the first half.
If I were neutral, I might not be sure how much was good defense and how much was bad offense by Berkeley. The Bruins were out-rebounded by the Bears in the first half as well as the game. Berkeley is the worst rebounding team in the Pac-12. On offense, UCLA shot themselves in the foot with nine turnovers in the first half.
It was 22-21, UCLA, at the half. The fact that the score was that low at halftime in this era is just amazing. It made it seem like the first to break 40 would win the game and Berkeley barely made it there.
UCLA fans had to worry going into the second half. Would anyone on UCLA be able to score besides Hill? Would Berkeley adjust to Hill’s scoring after he scored half of the Bruins’ first half points? It turns out the worry really belonged to Berkeley fans. Matt Bradley kept Berkeley in the game in the first half much like Hill did for UCLA. In the second half, the Bruins shut down Bradley and the Bears literally could not score.
The second half started at a faster pace and went back and forth for the first three minutes. UCLA had the lead on a jumper by Smith who added the “and one” free throw to give the Bruins a 27-25 lead at the under 16 timeout.
Then, it got...well, ugly. As the Bears’ offense was terrible and the Bruins played great defense. At one point, one of the announcers said Berkeley had “the possession that never ends.” Three times they got the rebound, but they were still not able to score. Berkeley ending up going 11 minutes without scoring!
Led by Smith, UCLA pulled away as the Bruins ran off 14 unanswered points. While it is great that the Bears didn’t score in 11 minutes, it wasn’t exactly like UCLA was lighting it up.
- Talent. Berkeley has Matt Bradley who was literally the only guy on the Golden Bears who could score. UCLA had two guys who could score, Hill (for the first half) and Smith. That was enough. This was not an All-Star game and Berkeley is a bad team.
- Player of the game: Chris Smith. Smith had a game high +12 in the plus/minus. He led UCLA in points with 17 and in rebounds with 8. He hit some timely baskets late and had a good all around game, going 7 of 9 from the field including 2 of 4 from three. He was the most talented player in the game and it showed.
- Defense. UCLA’s defense was good. I can’t say great because Berkeley’s offense is so bad. But the numbers are amazing. In addition to holding the Bears scoreless for 11 minutes, Berkeley had just six assists to 15 turnovers. The Bruins’ defense of the three-point line was outstanding, with Berkeley going just 3 for 17.
It was not the greatest game ever played, but UCLA got the win. The Bruins played solid and even outstanding defense for 37 minutes. The most positive sign was that they did not let up until Berkeley went on a late run and the game was out of reach.