Ugly. That's what they all called them. Said UCLA played an ugly style. Well, tonight, they executed on both ends, and showed that the idiots who criticized the Bruins based on one game against Memphis (while ignoring their other game against Memphis) are a bunch of morons.
Thanks to a second half slow down by the Bruins who held a huge lead with 15 minutes to go, the score of this one actually ended up close to what was predicted by most of the press. But the final score doesn't tell the story of how much the Bruins dominated this game. They led by 15 points at half time, and they seemed to build up a pretty proportional lead all the way through the first 25 minutes or so. Against Memphis, the Bruins had four field goals in the second half of the game. Tonight, they had four field goals in the first five minutes, inlcuding two three pointers.
The second half opened much the same way. The Bruins canned four shots in the first four minutes. And when your first four baskets of the half consist of three dunks, including an alley-oop against the zone, and a three pointer from 25 feet with the shot clock about to run out, you're doing pretty good.
Once again, the story of the game was the Bruins defense. That's been the case for the last month. It's easier to play that sort of defense when everyone you have on the floor is rester. Starter played 53 minutes in the first half for the Bruins, while the subs played 47. That, folks, is depth.
Player of the game for UCLA was clearly LRMAM, who really got the job done on both sides of the floor. Seventeen points and nine rebounds, while playing excellent defense on Glen Davis, and really owning him athletically on the offensive end. Unsung player of the game was Lorenzo Mata. The box score I'm looking at right now has him credited with seven boards, but I could have sworn it was more, and that might change. But not only did he pull down rebounds, he pulled them down at huge times. When you have a double digit lead, you run down 30 seconds off the shot clock, miss the shot, and you're able to grab the rebound, that puts your opponents on defense for another 30 seconds. That's difficult to play through both physically AND mentally, and ultimately, that was the difference. LSU has been a better rebounding team all year, but UCLA owned them on the boards tonight.
About that defense, Big Baby and Tyrus Thomas combined for only 19 points on 7-21 shooting and 12 rebounds. LRMAM almost out counted them on his own. LSU didn't hit one three pointer in this one. Over the last two games, UCLA opponents have looked lost from beyong the arc.
Monday brings Florida, who have played extremely well during this tournament (obviously). They bring the size and athleticism of LSU, but unlike the Tigers, they hit their threes, and that will be a challenge for the Bruins. The other thing Florida has in its favor is the timing. Give Ben Howland a week to prepare, and he showed tonight that he's gonna find a way to exploit your weaknesses. He's only got two days for the Gators, and only time will tell what will happen.
Two young teams, two teams that will probably be picked for this game next season depending on the NBA draft (along with Carolina, Ohio State, and probably this LSU team), meet for the chamnpionship a year ahead of schedule. Let's hope it's one to remember. Of course, a Bruins blowout would be just fine, too.