If you set aside two hours of your day to watch this game, I hope you found something to do after about the first five minutes, because the game was essentially over that early. UCLA’s first six points came from the free throw line, but the story was how they got there. Hard, physically punishing fouls sent a message early on that Villanova was going to bully UCLA all over the floor, and the Bruins never really stepped up to the challenge. After Josh Shipp’s fourth free throw gave UCLA a 6-4 lead, the Wildcats went on a 24-5 run from which the Bruins would never recover.
You could look for someone to blame, but this was just a beat-down, plain and simple. Villanova was stronger, quicker, more athletic, and executed better than the Bruins in every aspect of the game. The Villanova back court routinely took the ball to the basket without much trouble. Dante Cunningham dominated the smaller Bruins inside, finishing with 18 and 10. Six Wildcats finished with double figures in scoring, and another finished with 8 points.
The raw numbers don’t look all that awful. Neither team shot over 50% (UCLA finished at 42.6% while Villanova shot 46.3%). UCLA outscored Villanova at the free throw line and the three point line. But two numbers tell the whole story are rebounds and turnovers. Villanova outrebounded the Bruins 39-26, including 15-7 on the offensive glass. The Bruins turned the ball over 20 times compared to only 11 times for the Wildcats. Those numbers translated into 20 more shots for Villanova, and the team with 20 extra shots is usually going to win.
So the UCLA careers for Josh Shipp, Darren Collison, and Alfred Aboya have come to an end. The trio combined for 11 of the Bruins turnovers and only 10 rebounds. Shockingly, Josh Shipp finished the game without a rebound. It’s their earliest tournament exit since Shipp’s first year loss to Texas Tech. Shipp ends his career with a career record for games started, while Collison and Aboya finish with more games played than other Bruin in team history.
The Bruins will now wait on the decision of freshman J’rue Holiday, who will take over his natural point guard position if he decides to come back. They also add length in a five man freshman class, each of whom stand 6′7″ or taller. But as they learned against Memphis last year, and Villanova this year, talent alone won’t get it done. They need to get tougher and stronger if they’re going to return to national prominence.