This post was updated at 11:40 PM on December 14
UC Santa Barbara was supposed to be a test – a big team with a zone defense that UCLA had seen just once earlier this season.
But the No. 2 Bruins (11-0) ran by the Gauchos (1-7) 102-62 behind forward TJ Leaf and point guard Lonzo Ball’s big nights – and unselfish play – to stay undefeated with out-of-conference play winding down.
The freshmen were just a couple of assists shy of becoming the fifth and sixth players in program history to notch triple-doubles.
Despite falling short, they still combined for 38 points, 20 rebounds and 15 assists against UCSB.
“It’s kind of crazy that two guys could have gotten it,” Ball said “But all we care about is winning.”
Ball – who was just 1-for-5 in the first half – shot 80 percent in the second, including sinking two of his three attempts from long-range.
The guard had 10 rebounds and seven assists, feeding the ball to players on the perimeter – like senior guard Bryce Alford, who finished with 15 points – or in the paint to centers Ike Anigbogu and GG Goloman.
The big men battled in the post for 16 points and 14 rebounds combined while Ball’s quick passing helped Leaf stretch the floor pressuring and ultimately breaking open the Gaucho defense.
UCLA finished the game shooting 54.9 percent from the field with 27 assists on 36 baskets.
“We were just trying to play unselfish basketball,” Leaf said. “That’s just what we do.”
Leaf made 11 of his 17 shots for 25 points, including 14 during the Bruins’ 17-0 first half run, and grabbed 10 of the team’s 46 boards against the UCSB bigs before exiting the game with four minutes left.
The UCLA defense, which coach Steve Alford has pointed to as an area that needs improvement, limited UCSB to 30 percent shooting and just two fast break points in the game.
The Gauchos outrebounded the Bruins 50-46, but also had 14 turnovers.
“Yeah, the backboard got away from us,” Alford said. “But defensively, all in all, you look at the numbers, they look pretty good.”
UCLA sophomore guard Aaron Holiday and Anigbogu held down the defense with four steals and four blocks respectively.
The Bruins will travel to Las Vegas to take on Ohio State in the CBS Sports Classic on Saturday in their penultimate non-conference game.