It took until the later stages of the second half, but No. 18 UCLA remained undefeated following a 89-76 win tover UC Santa Barbara on Tuesday night at Pauley Pavilion.
The game was much closer than the final score, as one of the contenders in the Big West gave the Bruins a fight throughout. The Gauchos put a beatdown on UNLV earlier this year, in a 21-point win inside the Thomas & Mack Center. But UCLA made defensive adjustments in the second half to avoid becoming another upset victim.
The Bruins and Gauchos entered the half, knotted at 40, thanks in large part to the 9-of-12 shooting from behind the arc for UC Santa Barbara. The threes continued to fall in the second half, but not at the same rate. Kyle Boswell had five of the Gauchos’ 13 triples, but didn’t hit any from deep for the final 13 minutes.
UCLA began to create separation by buckling down on the defensive end of the floor, forcing turnovers (16), and making it difficult for the Gauchos to find the same quality looks they got in the first half.
The Bruins and Gauchos were tied at 65 with more than eight minutes to go, but UCLA ended the night on a 24-11 run. Jordan Adams had 22 points. Kyle Anderson went for 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Zach LaVine added 15, whose first half shooting kept UCLA in the game.
Despite UC Santa Barbara’s hot shooting in the first half, the Bruins have too much talent on that roster to let that lead get out of hand. That’s why the Gauchos shot 75 percent from deep in the first half and still entered the break tied. The Bruins are 8-0, not against the toughest competition mind you, so they can get away with a slow defensive start like that. But as the month of December progresses, UCLA can’t afford these lapses.
The Bruins play their first road game Saturday against Missouri, but the big game this month is Dec. 19 against the potent Duke Blue Devils offense.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.