Hamilton Be Scoreville — Isaac Hamilton purées his slump, tying the UCLA record with 9 Three-Pointers and scoring 33, as the #3 Bruins Honeybake the Sun Devils 102-80 to ascend to 19-1
Last week, Isaac Hamilton showed signs of breaking out of his deep shooting funk. On Thursday night, like a Hamilton Beach Scovill electric blender, he minced it into a coarse powder, emulsified and liquified it. In the game against Arizona State, Hamilton scored 25 Points in the first half, hitting 6 of his first 7 Three-Point shots, and went on to sink NINE buckets from behind the arc, to tie the all-time UCLA record held by Bryce Alford and Jason Kapono. He came oh-so-close to owning the record himself, as he hit another Three but it was 1 second after the Halftime buzzer. Hamilton ended the game with 33 Points, as the Bruins cruised to a 102-80 triumph.
The final score WAS indicative of the talent gap between these two teams, and also truly indicates the ease of victory. However, there WAS a huge LULL for the Bruins that many will find an issue of concern. After building a 25-point lead in the first half at 46-21, when Hamilton was personally outscoring the entire Devil team (and Lonzo Ball had more Assists than the entire Devil team), the Bruins relaxed, as they have done a few times in the past. Part of the problem was Coach Steve Alford resting Lonzo Ball. ASU made a big run with Ball sitting, and then it took a couple of extra minutes for Ball to get back in (waiting for a dead ball). Even when Ball got back in, he didn’t dent the box score in the final two minutes of the half. Sad, because before he sat, he was on pace to rack up his first-ever Triple-Double! I’m not criticizing the Coach — I understand that he needs a fresh Lonzo on Saturday to deal with #14 Arizona, but without LBall, this team is super-vulnerable, and much more similar to last year’s model.
The Sun Devils whittled the lead down to 15 at the break, and continued their inspired play in the second half, cutting the deficit all the way down to SEVEN Points! Finally, the Bruins woke back up, and asserted their dominance. With Ball orchestrating everything, on his way to 10 Points, TWELVE Assists, and 7 Rebounds (so close!), the Bruins methodically extended the lead back up to 20. Big buckets by Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh were pivotal, as was the all-around play of T.J. Leaf, who finished with 19 Points, 9 Rebounds, and 6 Assists. Another huge contribution came from Ike Anigbogu off the bench. Ike scored 4, blocked a shot, and most importantly, pulled down NINE Rebounds before fouling out.
The second-most important and telling stat of the game: UCLA outshot ASU 60% to 41%, and the reason for that leads us to the first-most important stat of the game: The Bruins had THIRTY Assists (on 35 baskets), compared to 11 (of 32) for ASU. When you share the ball that much and are that unselfish, good things happen. With Hamilton so hot at the start, all his teammates, even Bryce Alford, were trying to feed him and definitely were thinking “pass first.” Alford didn’t even attempt a single shot until the Bruins were up BIG. That kind of anti-Hero-ball will win a lot of ball games for UCLA this season, and hopefully, all the way deep into the Tournament.
But first things first: A tough and highly-ranked Arizona squad comes into Pauley on Saturday afternoon, right on the heels of their road victory over u$c. They were killing the trojans until a late run made it a one-possession game with a minute to go. But the Wildcats held on, to maintain momentum heading into their biggest game of the year. The Bruins might not be able to afford any lulls in that one, or it won’t be LULZ in Westwood for Bruin fans.