Berkeley, CALIFORNIA — Saturday was a tale of two zones for UCLA.
The Bruins shot lights out from 3-point distance, making 17 of their 30 attempts, including 9-of-11 after halftime.
On the defensive end, UCLA’s 3-2 zone wreaked havoc on Cal’s offense. The Bears shot only 18.2 percent on 3-pointers and 25.6 percent overall in the first half.
Those numbers combined helped the Bruins build a 21-point halftime lead, and UCLA (12-4, 3-1 Pac-12) continued its offensive torrent in a second half – en route to an 107-84 win over Cal (7-9, 1-2) at Haas Pavilion.
Six Bruins scored in double digits – tying a season high – led by junior point guard Aaron Holiday’s 21. Senior center Thomas Welsh chipped in 19 points and sank a career-high four 3-pointers while continuing to wear a mask after taking a stray elbow to his nose against Stanford. Forwards senior GG Goloman and redshirt sophomore Alex Olesinski also combined to drain four.
“All three of those guys can stretch defenses,” said coach Steve Alford. “Our bigs can shoot it, and (Olesinski) and (Goloman) haven’t shot it the way they’re capable of shooting it. Tonight they did.”
The visitors’ hot streak also extended to the free throw line, where they were 78.8 percent, well above their season average of 69 percent.
On the other end, Cal couldn’t recover from a stone-cold start. Forward Justice Sueing led the Bears with 22 points, but leading scorer guard Don Coleman was limited to 16 on 15 shots.
“We felt like zone was going to be good for us against this team,” Alford said. “They average making four 3s a game, so we thought that was what our plan was going to be and I thought for the most part it worked.”
One area where the hosts excelled was offensive rebounding, in part due to the Bruins’ reliance on their zone defense. Cal recorded 21 offensive boards compared to UCLA’s 27 defensive rebounds.
Forward Marcus Lee – a Kentucky transfer and former McDonald’s All-American – tallied 19 points and 15 rebounds, 11 of which came on the offensive glass.
UCLA’s strategy against Lee in the post was to play him man-to-man and deny his passing lanes.
“He did a great job offensive rebounding against us. First half, he made a killing doing that,” Olesinski said. “With the 3-2 zone, we just knew he was a talented player, quick, so whenever he got it we knew we had to help.”
The Bruins collapsing into the paint meant the Bears could only parlay that advantage into three more second-chance points than the Bruins, who held a 17-4 fast break point advantage.
Cal narrowed its deficit to 11 points midway through the second half and forced Alford to call a timeout following a lackadaisical inbounds play. During the break-in action, he reminded his team not to follow the same path it did in giving up double-digit leads in road contests at Stanford and Michigan.
“(Alford) just said this happened before,” Holiday said. “He obviously gave us confidence but he made sure we knew what was going wrong at the time.”
After the timeout, freshman guard Jaylen Hands found Olesinski wide open in the strong-side corner, and the forward drained a 3-pointer while getting fouled. UCLA relied on its torrid shooting to keep Cal at bay.
“We just kept playing how we did,” Olesinski said. “We just knew we had to get some stops, cut down the offensive rebounds for them and basically just keep playing how we’ve been playing offensively.”