Let me start out by saying this was not a fun game to watch.
Yet that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If anything, turning games into unwatchable affairs is currently an excellent strategy for coach Mick Cronin and the UCLA Bruins, and that turned out to be the case yet again as the Bruins ground the game down to a crawl and came away with a 62-58 victory over the Oregon State Beavers.
Really, UCLA did so many of the things you need to do to get a win on the road in this conference. It starts with the defense. UCLA held the Beavers to 36.6% shooting from the field, out-rebounded the Beavers 33 to 26 including a 12 to 8 offensive rebounding advantage and had a season-high 13 steals. Oregon State really could not get into any sort of rhythm all night, especially Tres Tinkle, who put up 17 points but had to struggle to get those points, going 4 for 14 from the field and 0 for 4 from deep.
The offense was less stellar, especially in the second half when they went a bit over seven minutes without hitting a shot from the field, but the Bruins got timely scoring when they needed it. This mostly came in the form of Chris Smith, who struggled with foul trouble all game, but came up clutch down the stretch with nine points in the final five minutes, with most of those coming from the free throw line. When Smith fouled out with 11 seconds remaining and the Bruins nursing a one-point lead, the team turned to Jalen Hill to ice the game from the free throw line. It was a curious decision considering Hill had not made a shot in the game and is a 69% FT shooter, but he came through with four straight free throws. Jules Bernard hit the final two free throws to put the Bruins up four and end the game.
Speaking of the end of the game, let’s talk about that, because the Bruins played the final 30 seconds incredibly well. The Bruins defended the three which would have tied the game, and once Smith fouled out, shifted to the winning strategy of fouling Oregon State before they could have a chance to shoot a three. The impressive part was it appeared that every UCLA player on the court knew what they were supposed to do in this situation, which is a great sign for the Bruins as far as how they are taking to the coaching.
There’s probably more that could be broken down from this game, but, honestly, my brain kinda shut down during most of that game. So, let’s just end it there.
Smith led the Bruins with 15 points and Hill led the team with 5 rebounds, while Tyger Campbell led the team with 4 assists. Tres Tinkle led the Beavers with 17 points.
- Player of the Game: Chris Smith? - This game really was the definition of a team effort, especially on the defensive end. That said, Smith really took over down the stretch when UCLA was desperate for any sort of offensive spark. So, let’s give him the honors here.
- Thing I geeked out over for no reason: Points in the Paint - Fox Sports 1 made sure to show a dunk by Kylor Kelley in their highlight package heading into the second half. I found it hilarious because that singular dunk were the only points in the paint that the Beavers had in the first half. UCLA did an excellent job of keeping Oregon State to the outside and contesting anything on the inside. Now, Oregon State did a better job of scoring inside in the second half, as they finished with 18 points in the paint, but the point still stands.
- Not a great night for FS1 - Thank God, I tend to always have one eye on the UCLA Statbroadcast page on nights I’m doing the recap, because FS1 was completely unhelpful this game with their bottom scoreboard being broken for huge swaths of this game. And when it did work, it meant I had less of a distraction from some poor commentary from the FS1 crew. Never did I think I would long for a Pac-12 Network broadcast, but here we are.
UCLA next plays on Sunday, when they travel across the state to play the Oregon Ducks. Tip-off is scheduled for 2:00 pm PT.