White Chuck-a-lot — The 8 Bruin Musketeers slice up the Mickey Mousc-keteers 102-70, as ALL the Bruins play well, led by Bryce Alford finding his sweet spot for 26 Points, Thomas Welsh pouring it on with 16 and 16, and T.J. Leaf stirring in 19 and 8; Of course the Willy Wonka of it all was Lonzo Ball, who whips it up good for 15, 8, and 8 to make nougat of troy and get his first win against the crosstown rivals (ONE FOR BALL, WON FOR ALL)
The planets are back in alignment. The Bruins have finally seized control of the City, with a thorough 102-70 thrashing of “just sc.” After 4 straight lopsided losses to their crosstown rivals, the Bruins broke the curse. UCLA played ultimate TEAM ball, with all 8 rotation players having decent-to spectacular games. In most of their games this year, especially in their three losses, at least one or two key players had OFF nights. Bryce Alford has had a few really cold shooting nights, Isaac Hamilton had a prolonged shooting slump, Aaron Holiday hit a rough patch, and big men T.J. Leaf and Thomas Welsh have both had a couple of game performances they would like to forget. Even Frosh phenom Lonzo Ball has been plagued with the Turnover bug a few times. But on this night, none of them struggled very much. Add to that a solid few minutes from Gyorgy Goloman which included 4 Points and a big slam dunk, and 6 OFFENSIVE Rebounds from Ike Anigbogu, and there you have it: A complete TEAM EFFORT.
Ike was a force to be reckoned with underneath, refusing to let the trojans manhandle the Bruins. Although Ike went 0-5 from the floor, it was his Defense and Rebounding that he contributed to add to this victory. Everyone else shot pretty well and played a part in the Offensive explosion. Bryce Alford led all scorers with 26 Points, and he also dished out 6 Assists and grabbed 4 Rebounds. Thomas Welsh had a monster game, showing more aggressiveness and assertiveness and toughness than ever before. Welsh went 8-for-10 from the field for 16 Points, and he matched that intensity on the glass, grabbing 16 caroms. He also had 2 Assists and a Blocked shot in his most complete game ever. I thought it would be Ike who would have to dominate the Paint in order for the Bruins to triumph over Chimeze “Day Tripper” Metu and athletic sc, but it was actually Welsh who filled that bill.
Also instrumental in the assault was Welsh’s fellow big man T.J. Leaf, who was hot on Offense, going 8-for-13 and 2-for-3 from behind the arc, for 19 Points. He also grabbed 8 Boards, and on Defense, Blocked THREE trojan shots! Hamilton added 13 Points on 50% shooting, and Holiday chipped in with 7 Points, 4 Assists, and 2 Steals. The Bruins out-Assisted sc 23-10.
With all these efficient stats and a final margin of 32, you would think it was a total cakewalk, but you would be wrong. The Bruins started out slowly, and the game was very close and back and forth for the first 15 minutes. In fact, the trojans were actually ahead by 5 at 21-16, and 23-18 with about 8 minutes left in the first half. Sc was outplaying UCLA at that point, making several more three-pointers than the Bruins were. It really felt like the game was slipping away from UCLA, who was having severe trouble covering the perimeter, and Bennie Boatwright was making them pay. The refs weren’t helping. I guess the trojans were more aggressive, forcing the action, and that led to a free throw disparity: The trojans shot 27 Free Throws to the Bruins’ EIGHT (for the whole game). So much for Pauley “home cookin’.”
Surprisingly, the Bruins went on a run with Lonzo Ball resting on the bench. The trojan defense was apparently keyed on stopping Lonzo, so when he was out, the Bruin Offense had a different look, and the trojans failed to adjust. UCLA reeled off 7 straight points to take the lead 25-23. Sc hit a trey to go back up 26-25, but Bryce answered with a 3 of his own, making it 28-26, and the Bruins NEVER TRAILED AGAIN. That 3 by Bryce started a 10-0 Bruin run, giving UCLA a 35-26 lead. Ball came back in before the half ended, and hit a buzzer-beating bomb to make it 46-34 at the break.
In the second half, everyone expected troy to mount a comeback, but they were never able to sustain a run. They got the lead down to 9 a couple of times, but the lead hovered between 10 and 12 for most of the “3rd quarter.” They were still there, within striking distance, with about 8 minutes to go. Another Ball-less Bruin run upped the lead again, and then, the Bruins really poured it on. Ball came back, and stepped on the trojans’ throats, including two exclamation point Ball dunks that rocked Pauley to its core. The Bruins outscored sc by TWENTY-TWO in those final 8 minutes to win a much-needed laugher, and to restore order to the basketball universe.
The Bruins have now avenged 2 of their 3 losses, with Arizona looming, for a chance to avenge the third. The Bruin Defense — the missing cog in the machine — is finally gelling (despite the perimeter woes early in this game). Here are 83 photos from the game, showing how the planets are indeed back in alignment, and how the Celestial Bodies (of the UCLA Spirit Squad) are lining up for you as well…