We learned something about No. 2 UCLA on Saturday: The Bruins don’t have to play well to win games.
Facing off with Ohio State in the opener of the CBS Sports Classic out in Las Vegas, the Bruins committed 12 first half turnovers and had one of their poorest shooting performances – they went just 10-for-30 from three – and the Bruins still managed to beat Ohio State, 86-73.
The outcome never felt like it was in doubt, either.
The Buckeyes hung around. They spent the entire second half within striking distance, as Marc Loving kept hitting shots and JaQuan Lyle kept making plays, but there was never truly a point where it seemed as if the Bruins were truly in danger of losing control of this one. Whenever the Buckeyes would make a push to cut the lead to six or seven, the Bruins would find an open three or get a couple of buckets in transition. It was like playing your little brother one-on-one: You know that you can coast a little bit, but every time he scores a couple of baskets in a row, it’s time to remind him that he is, yanno, the little brother.
And on the one hand, that’s a concern.
This was anything-but UCLA’s best. There were more defensive lapses than we’ve become accustomed to with this group. They let Ohio State muck things up for them offensively. They didn’t hit as many open threes as we’re used to seeing them hit. They were really sloppy in the first half. It happens, and the Bruins were able to turn it on when they needed to in order to pull away, but that’s not something they’re going to want to make a habit out of, particularly once we get into league play.
But the other side of it is that the Bruins were able to coast to a 13-point win over Ohio State in a game where they put forth somewhere around a C+ performance. As the saying goes, great teams win games when they play poorly, and that’s exactly what UCLA did on Saturday.
Aaron Holiday, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton combined for 57 points. Lonzo Ball nearly notched a triple-double – eight points, nine boards, nine assists – while fellow freshman T.J. Leaf added 13 points and eight boards.