UCLA has as flashy of an offense as we’ve seen in college basketball in recent memory, but entering Sunday night’s battles with Texas A&M in the title game of the Wooden Legacy in Los Angeles, there were still plenty of questions regarding what they can be this season.
What happens when a team gets physical with them?
What happens when they get dragged into a slow-tempo, half-court game?
Are they going to be able to get enough stops to beat good teams?
And while it’s too early in the season to definitively give an answer to any of those three questions marks, the early returns sure are promising.
The No. 14 Bruins improved to 7-0 on the season with a 74-67 win over the Aggies on Sunday, an impressive performance against a team that plays the exact style that we all thought would give UCLA trouble. Billy Kennedy’s club wants to slow the game down. They want to pound the ball inside to Tyler Davis – who might be the pound-for-pound strongest man in college hoops – and Robert Williams. They win games not because they’re going to light up the scoreboard but because they’ve been pretty efficient at playing at their pace, keeping games in the 60s.
It didn’t matter.
Isaac Hamilton scored all 17 of his points in the first half, Lonzo Ball finished with 16 points, 10 assists, five boards and three blocks and Bryce Alford shook off a cold-shooting night to make a number of critical shots down the stretch. More importantly, Thomas Welsh and T.J. Leaf held their own against A&M’s front line and, when Steve Alford needed his team to make a play on the defensive end of the floor, they did just that.
We’re not quite sure how good this A&M team is going to be up being this season. With the pieces they lost to graduation and with projected starting point guard J.J. Caldwell ineligible, the Aggies do have some limitations.
What they are is a solid, well-coached team that plays a style that matches up well with how UCLA wants to play, and the Bruins got passed them in a game that never really felt like they were in danger of losing.
The real test for the Bruins comes on Saturday, when they head to Rupp Arena to face off with Kentucky.
And after UCLA’s run to the Wooden Legacy title, Bruins fans should feel a bit more confident that their team may be able to eke out a win on the road.