Monday, May 29

Fierce offense key to UCLA’s 81-71 victory over California


It faltered down the stretch, but UCLA cites its defensive growth as key in Thursday night’s 81-71 win over Cal. The Bruins held the Golden Bears to just 30 percent shooting in the first half. (Jintak Han/Assistant Photo editor)

It faltered down the stretch, but UCLA cites its defensive growth as key in Thursday night’s 81-71 win over Cal. The Bruins held the Golden Bears to just 30 percent shooting in the first half. (Jintak Han/Assistant Photo editor)


Everyone knows how explosive and dangerous No. 4 UCLA’s offense can be.

Case in point: an 11-0 run in one minute and 45 seconds led by the freshmen duo of guard Lonzo Ball and forward TJ Leaf that busted open a 3-point UCLA lead.

Or consider the fact that on any given night, any one of the Bruins’ four guards is capable of quickly catching fire. Thursday night, senior guard Bryce Alford drained his first four 3-pointers on the way to a 16-point first-half effort.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that UCLA (15-1, 2-1 Pac-12) easily put up 81 points in an 81-71 win over California (10-5, 1-2), one of the top defensive teams in the Pac-12 that holds opponents to just 37.5 percent shooting on the season.

But the biggest complaint anyone can have about this near-perfect season is the Bruin defense. After the win against Oregon State on Friday night, coach Steve Alford and Leaf both said that the biggest takeaway was the growth on the defensive end.

UCLA showed growth again at least for one half, holding California to 30 percent shooting in the first half en route to building a 20-point lead at halftime.

The Bruins’ offense cooled down in the second half – scoring 37 points on 34.5 percent shooting – and UCLA had to rely on its defense to close it out.

It didn’t go exactly to plan.

The Bruins led by as much as 24 points, but allowed the Bears to claw back at the very end. California cut the deficit to just five points with less than a minute left in the game behind a 48-point second-half scoring effort.

Somehow, UCLA managed to hang on for the win.

Alford scored a game-high 24 points, Leaf added 18 points and 11 rebounds and Ball filled up the stat sheet with 14 points, five rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block.

For yet another game, the UCLA offense produced enough to mask the problems on the defensive end of the floor.

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