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BALL OF VOODOO

Chicks dig the Lon Ball — You don’t need a Mexican Radio to tune in to the fact that Lonzo is making (B)all The Right Moves, leading the Bruins out of their flat funk like That Ol’ Black Magic, to finally wall off the dam Beavers and make them pay for it, 78-60

Lonzo Ball gets better, and better, and better.  For the first half of the season, he was just feeling things out, concentrating on distributing the ball, involving his teammates, and making them better.  His unselfishness permeated the whole team, and made the Bruins a National Contender.  Comparisons to Jason Kidd were proliferating.  And that was “tentative” Lonzo, just getting his feet wet as a college Freshman.

Now that he is getting more comfortable, he has decided to kick it up a notch in the scoring department.  Forget Kidd — this kid is MAGIC (as in Johnson).  On Sunday afternoon, the Bruins found themselves down 27-24 to the 27-point underdog Oregon State Beavers, who came into the game 0-12 in the Pac-12, on a 12-game losing streak.  This was indeed a trap game, with the Bruins apparently looking ahead to their upcoming revenge match against their crosstown rivals next week.  The Bruins came out flat, and their sharpshooters were anything but sharp, hence the 27-24 deficit.

When the Bruins need a pick-me-up, it is usually Lonzo who supplies it, and that was the case again on Sunday.  Ball lifted UCLA on his shoulders, as they surged ahead by 5 at the half, and went on to blow out the Beavs 78-60, behind 22 Points from their prolific Frosh Point Guard.  The next-closest to that 22 was fellow Freshman T.J. Leaf, who had 13.  Leaf had another bad first half, scoring only 2, but he woke up after Intermission and was a big part of the turnaround.  No one else on the team hit double figures, in any category.  No one else shot better than 50% except Continue Reading »

“PROSEED” WITH CAUTION

Be vewy, vewy quiet, we’re hunting Beavers — There are no conference cupcakes, and with the sc revenge match looming, today’s contest against Oregon State is a classic TRAP game;  The Bruins must be careful, because a loss, or even an unexpectedly close win, could hurt UCLA’s NCAA Tournament Seeding, which was already projected as a disappointing 4, in the first-ever in-season Selection Committee bracket-unveiling preview

 A month or so ago, UCLA fans were certain that the Bruins would go into March Madness as the #1 Seed in the West bracket.  That dream is on life-support, as the unprecedented in-season unveiling of seedings places UCLA as a #4 Seed in the East.  UCLA is considered to be the 15th strongest team in the Country at the moment (I don’t know if this was their determination before or after we beat Oregon, who incidentally got a 2 seed!).  To make matters worse, the East bracket looks the toughest, with UCLA looking up at #1 Seed Villanova, #2 Louisville, and #3 Kentucky

Perhaps the next unveiling will have the Bruins ascend the charts, moving up to a 3 or a 2, and moving out of the East, … but not if they don’t destroy the Beavs on Sunday afternoon in Pauley.  Hopefully, their insulting seeding position will fire up the Bruins to give 100% effort against a team that is 0-12 in the Pac-12.  The 27-point favorite Bruins are bound to be looking ahead to u$c, because they have lost to them 4 straight times, including earlier this year.  So the Beavers might feast on a flat opponent, if Steve Alford can’t keep his team focused on the task at hand.  Bruins beware:  A team that relies on perimeter shooting is always vulnerable to a cold shooting night and an upset.  The Bruins can concentrate on sc starting Sunday night.  Hopefully, Continue Reading »

BIDNESS AS USUAL

Taking care, taking care of business, and taking care of “BID-ness” — Thursday was scary, eventful, and exciting, but life goes on, and the Bruin Basketball Team will have to stay focused on the business at hand in 2 days (OSU before u$c), and the UCLA Spirit Squad and its supporters will start focusing on the Charity Fundraising Auction, which opens for bid-ness in 5 days

“I get knocked down, but I get up again; You’re never gonna keep me down…”

So says Chumbawamba, and so do Bruins.  UCLA Basketball had a down season last year, but bounced back this year.  Then this season they hit a rough patch, but they got on a roll again.  Then on Thursday night, they fell down by 19 points, but got up off the deck, and charged back to victory.  You can’t keep a good man down, or a good Bruin down, man or woman, as the Spirit Squad will prove.  With a big revenge game coming up on the 18th against sc, it will be hard to “get up” for lowly Oregon State on Sunday.  That will be the task at hand for Steve Alford, to keep his team from coming out flat.  Luckily for Alford, even a pancake-flat Bruin team should be able to beat the Beavers in Pauley, considering that OSU is winless in Pac-12 play at 0-12.  And just in case the Bruins need some extra spirit, the UCLA Spirit Squad is expected to be there in full force to spur them along.

Supporters of that illustrious Spirit Squad should also prepare to show up in full force, in 5 days, when their online fundraiser auction opens for bids.  Every Spring, the squad hosts an All-Access Reception, with a super-fun drawing for prizes, and an auction for amazing items like vacations, dinners, autographed Bruin memorabilia, and even a chance to be a judge for the Cheerleader Tryouts.  The reception is also the best chance of the year to mingle with the Squad members, to get to see how pleasant, down-to-earth, beautiful up close, and highly intelligent they are.  You will simply be amazed at the high quality of human being that this prestigious selection committee approves for inclusion on the squad.

But even if you can’t make the Reception in person on Sunday February 26th at 3pm, Continue Reading »

DUCKS BE A FADE-Y TONIGHT

Hey Guys and Dolls — We got the horses right here and their names are Lonzo, Aaron, and Ike, who lead UCLA to an unbelievable comeback from NINETEEN points down against #5 Oregon for an exhilirating 82-79 victory

Sit down, sit down, sit down you’re rockin’ the Pauley!

Sold out Pauley Pavilion reached unprecedented decibel levels on Thursday night, as the #10 UCLA Bruins roared back from a 19-point deficit to beat the #5 Oregon Ducks 82-79.  Before I tell you about this truly unforgettable night, I must give my most profound thanks to the person whose overwhelming generosity and kindness of spirit ALLOWED me to be in attendance in the first place.  I don’t want to embarrass anyone or her relatives, so I won’t say her name, but she knows who she is, and I am sincerely grateful and appreciative.  It was possibly the greatest game I’ve ever witnessed in person, and I have been going to games since Hector was a pup, and that includes seeing the Bruins win in a Final Four.  I also thoroughly enjoyed a special pre-game “tailgate” session in Luskin Center.  Again, I cannot say thanks enough to express my deepest gratitude.

It was a special night for longtime Bruin fans regardless of the outcome, because it was Dick Enberg Night.  UCLA was honoring the Multiple Hall of Fame Broadcaster, who was the Bruins’ play-by-play man for most of their Wooden Championships, and who I personally grew up listening to as the voice of the Bruins (and Angels).  I was not a Dodger fan, so to ME, it was Dick and Chick (Hearn) as the two sportscasters that brought sports to life for me.  At Halftime of this game, Dick “Oh my!” Enberg was honored with a framed Bruin Jersey, presented by Bruins Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes.  As if that presentation wasn’t worth the price of admission all by itself, the current Bruins teams had a little something to add.

The game started out pretty ugly for UCLA, with Oregon immediately jumping out to a 5-0 lead, building the margin up to 10 before all the fans had even found their seats.  Two early fouls on T.J. Leaf put him on the bench, where he watched the Ducks catch fire, hitting 3’s with ease, doubling up the Bruins 30-15.  The Oregon Defense found a way to neutralize Lonzo Ball, who leads the free world in Assists, but had none at all during this Duck Domination.  The Ducks went up by 19 with about 6 and a half minutes to go in the first half.

A lesser team would have quit, but not this year’s Bruins.  Senior Guard Bryce Alford took over the game, leading the Bruins on a 14-0 run to cut the lead to 5, and at the half, the lead was 9, at 48-39.  At that point, Bryce was UCLA’s leading scorer, with 12.  And if you would have told me then that the Ducks would hold Bryce to a Goose Egg in the second half, I would have said no way do the Bruins survive.  But — Continue Reading »

A MASSACRE THAT ACTUALLY OCCURRED

Incompetence in Washington — Unlike Bowling Green, Seattle DID actually see some carnage, as the inept Lorenzo Romar fails to motivate his Huskies to put up any resistance, allowing the resurgent Bruins to march to a 41-point landslide victory, 107-66, despite a [previous] inauguration-like record crowd

It was billed as a marquee match-up of the two best Freshmen — and two Best Point Guards — in the Country:  UCLA’s Lonzo Ball vs. Washington’s Markelle Fultz.  Despite UCLA being favored by 11, the Huskies attracted their first sell-out crowd in FIVE YEARS, and based on the Bruins’ weak performances against Arizona and u$c about a week ago, many people expected a good, hard-fought game.  Not only did UW have the crowd on their side, they also had a little confidence, having given sc a better battle this week than the Bruins did the week before.

But right from the opening tipoff, it was ALL UCLA, all night long.  The Huskies came out shockingly FLAT, and the Bruins capitalized.  UCLA exploded out to an 18-4 lead, and never looked back.  Freshmen T.J. Leaf and Ball led the early attack, and several others came on to carry the momentum.  Dominating the Boards helped UCLA to lead by 18 at the half, and they built the lead up to the high 20’s early in the second half.  Midway through the second half, it was above 30, and finally over 40 in the final minutes, with the final score 107-66.

Fultz led all scorers with 25, but Ball won the Battle of the Bests, with 22 Points, 6 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 4 Steals, and a Block.  Fultz actually had nearly-identical numbers to Ball across the board, IN THE BOX SCORE, but the difference was clear ON THE COURT.  It was about running the Offense, and facilitating easy, open shots.  Ball made all his teammates better, leading to three other guys (Leaf, Bryce Alford, and Aaron Holiday) also scoring 20 or more.

The game was truly never in doubt, leaving Bruin fans wondering what happened to these guys against the ‘Cats and Continue Reading »

PALOUSE-LEAF!

Leaf through it — Just a re-binder that UCLA has not one but TWO Freshman Phenoms:  T.J. Leaf tallies 32 Points and 14 Rebounds as UCLA beats the sheet out of Washington State 95-79 to end a 3-game losing streak in the Palouse

The depressing, demoralizing, and inexplicable UCLA 2-game losing streak has come to an end, with a convincing 95-79 Bruin victory over the Cougars.  Admittedly, beating lowly WSU is not exactly a STATEMENT that UCLA is “back,” but even against a weak team, this venue is not an easy place to play, as evidenced by UCLA’s recent 0-and-3 record up there over the last few years.  This was not UCLA’s best performance of the year, but it WAS T.J. Leaf’s best.  Leaf scored 32, pulled down 14 caroms, dished out 3 Assists, and even snagged 1 Steal.  Whenever the Bruins were losing momentum, they called a play for Leaf, and he delivered.  T.J. missed only 4 out of his 18 Field Goal Attempts.

Of course you can’t beat any Pac-12 team with only one guy playing well, so obviously, Leaf had help.  A lot of it came from Leaf’s fellow Frosh Lonzo Ball, who scored 14, adding 7 Assists and 7 Boards.  But possibly his most important stat was his FIVE Steals.  Those thefts spurred an improved Defense, and led to a 22-6 edge in Points Off Turnovers.

In addition to the Freshmen, Thomas Welsh played a crucial role in the victory.  With fellow big man Ike Anigbogu out with a minor knee injury, Continue Reading »

CURED HAM

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.

BEDTIME FOR LONZO

No one can resist our Sweaty Ball — Wooden Award Favorite Lonzo Ball plays all 40 minutes, leads UCLA with 17 Points, 8 Assists, and FIVE Steals, and carries the Bruins back from a 9-Point, 2nd Half deficit to boot the Utes, 83-82, along with crucial contributions from determined Aaron Holiday, “perfect” Thomas Welsh, and the stupid Utes themselves, who take and make a TWO at the buzzer when down by THREE

Hey Lonzo:  You deserve a break today, and I’m Loving It.  These two famous McDonald’s slogans seem appropriate today, especially with this coming Friday marking the Nationwide release of the fantastic movie “The Founder,” a biopic based on Ray Kroc’s “discovery” and development of the “Golden Arches.”

Lonzo has certainly earned a break, after playing all 40 minutes of last night’s nailbiter in Salt Lake City.  The 83-82 Bruin victory completed a sweep of the high altitude schools and the first Pac-12 road sweep for the Bruins since Steve Alford took over.  The thin air in Boulder and Salt Lake are notoriously draining, and it was thought that the Bruins, with their relatively shallow 8-man rotation, would struggle mightily.  And on Saturday afternoon in Utah, struggle they did.

It took the incredible efforts of the Freshman phenom Lonzo Ball to push them to victory.  Despite the exhausting environment, Lonzo played the whole game.  He practically HAD TO, considering Continue Reading »

THREE MIND BRYCE

Three mined Bryce; Three NINED Bryce; See how they fall; See how we ball — Bryce Alford hits NINE of UCLA’s all-time high NINETEEN Three-pointers on his way to 37 Points, as the Bruins make Colorado look like “THREE stooges,” carving out a 104-89 victory.  Have you ever seen such a sight in your life?

I read before the game that Bryce Alford, in his three years as a Bruin, has struggled brutally in his previous trips to Colorado and Utah, shooting a combined miserable 2-for-37 from the floor.  That worried me, because Colorado is a tough place to play, with a good crowd, high altitude, and thin air.  Also, the Buffaloes were hungry, going o-3 so far in Conference play, but having beaten a ranked Xavier team in Boulder earlier in the year.  The Bruins would NEED an effective Bryce Alford in order to win, especially considering that Thomas Welsh was in a tiny slump, Aaron Holiday was in a medium-sized slump, and Isaac Hamilton was in a humungous slump, especially with his perimeter shooting.

All of that worry was for naught, as Bryce Alford tied the school record for 3-pointers by sinking 9 of them (on 14 attempts).  He had done this once before, as has Jason Kapono.  Bryce went on to score a career-high 37 Points, as UCLA pulled away from the Buffs in the second half to win easily, 104-89.

The first half was hard-fought, with Colorado hanging tough despite the Bruins scoring 51.  It was only a 6-point lead at the break.  A big part of that small margin was foul trouble for T.J. Leaf, UCLA’s leading scorer Continue Reading »

SHOULDA NEVER GIVEN THE KEYS TO SARKISIAN

Don’t take the car, you’ll kill yourself! — Alabama Offensive Coordinator, Play-caller, and former alcoholic u$c Head Coach Steve Sarkisian blows Alabama’s 14-point lead by failing to convert the Crimson Tide’s LAST TWELVE 3rd Down attempts, as Clemson overcomes a late double-digit deficit to win the National Championship on a Touchdown with 1 second left, 35-31

The boozer is a loser.  The rummy is crummy.  The Sheriff is a swigger.  Alabama’s Alcoholic’s not Anonymous.

Someone call his sponsor:  Alabama’s (recovering?) alcoholic O.C. Steve Sarkisian might go on another bender tonight, to drown his sorrows, and who could blame him?  His Crimson Tide Offense couldn’t keep Clemson’s Offense off the field in the second half, as Tiger QB Deshaun Watson erased a 10-point margin, and did just enough to put Clemson over the top in a 35-31 nailbiter.

The key stat of the game?  Alabama failed to convert 12 straight 3rd Down tries in the second half.  Their LAST 12, as a matter of fact.  With all that talent, which was able to put 31 points up on one of the Country’s best Defenses, how do you possibly blow 12 consecutive 3rd Downs??  That’s all about bad play-calling, and getting blatantly OUT-COACHED.

Put a Tiger(-enabler) in your (drunk) Tank!

Now to be fair, let’s give Sark some credit:  His offense did indeed Continue Reading »

BALL THREE’S MAUL TREES

“Hey you kids:  Get offa my Lonzo!”  — The sound of people criticizing Lonzo Ball’s unconventional shooting mechanics continues to fade, as he goes 4-for-5 from downtown and scores a team-high 21 points in UCLA’s 89-75 rout of Stanford

Once again, UCLA blows out a Pac-12 opponent in the first half behind Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, and Bryce Alford, and then coasts to victory in cruise control.  On Sunday night against Stanford, the Bruins shot out to an 18-point lead at halftime, built it up to 23 in the second half, then, as usual, eased up a bit.  The Cardinal cut the lead to 11 before the Bruins put it out of reach, ending up with an 89-75 victory.  That’s an improvement over the previous game, when UCLA allowed Cal to within 5 before clamping down.

And for the second game in a row, there were clearly 3 Bruin stars outplaying the rest of the team.  The Bruins are 16-1,  and Lonzo Ball has had about 16 great games of those 17, including Sunday night.  Lonzo hit some early Three’s on his way to 21 points.  He also had 8 Assists, 6 Rebounds, 3 Steals, and 2 Blocks.  T.J. Leaf also continued his own consistent play with 15 Points, 10 Rebounds, 2 Blocks and a Steal.  Rounding out the three stars was Bryce Alford, who, like Lonzo, went 4-for-5 from behind the arc.  Alford finished with 17 Points.  Those three carried the Bruins, who had to endure a 3-for-11 shooting night from Thomas Welsh.  Isaac Hamilton appeared like he might be emerging from his month-long slump when he hit an early Three, and he did manage to score 15 Points.  HOWEVER, he was still a troubling 1-for-7 from Three-point Land, so it looks like he needs to keep hitting the practice court for more work on his perimeter shot.

The Bruins had plenty to overcome a weak Stanford team, but they will need to be firing on more than 3 cylinders to win a Conference Title and to go deep into the Big Dance.  Hamilton and Aaron Holiday will have to find their respective grooves for this team to live up to their #4 Ranking.  Right after UCLA wrapped up the victory, their previous victim, the Cal Bears, tipped off with u$c in the Galen Center.  It was a close, exciting game that went down to the wire.  In the final seconds,
Continue Reading »

“…CLOSING THE GODDAMN DOOR”

Panic in the Pavilion — Disco may have died, but the Golden Bears refused to, after a Bruin barrage led by Lonzo, Leaf, and Lil-ford had Cal down 24 points, as they cut the lead to 5 before #4 UCLA finally slams the door in the 81-71 victory

Wanted:  Killer Instinct.  Will pay top dollar.  Please contact Steve Alford asap.

The #4 UCLA Bruins outlasted and survived the unranked Cal Berkeley Bears 81-71 last night, but there is a big problem:  The Bruins almost failed to hold onto a game that they led by 24 points with less than 14 minutes left.  This is not the first time they have squandered a lead late in a game.  Kentucky closed the gap, and Oregon overcame a late deficit, just to name two besides Cal.

The Bruins are just too good to let this happen repeatedly.  Earlier in the season, they made a habit of wearing opponents down with their fast pace, often pulling away in the second halves.  They will need that trend to return if they want to continue their quest for a Pac-12 Title and top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

On Thursday night, Bryce Alford got it going early, hitting 4 straight three’s on his way to a team-high 24 points.  Then Lonzo Ball took over, dominating the floor as he often does, stuffing the box score with 14 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and a blocked shot.  Fellow Freshman phenom T.J. Leaf did the rest, scoring 18 points inside, and adding 11 boards, 3 assists, a steal, and a block.  Leaf also provided the highlight of the game:  a drive from the free throw line that culminated with a monster slam dunk in a Bear’s face.

All that firepower, because of the Bruins’ trademarked unselfish play.  EIGHTEEN of the 27 buckets were ASSISTED, compared to only 7 of 27 for Cal.  But it still wasn’t enough to secure the victory until the final minute. Continue Reading »

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