UCLA (20-3, 7-3 Pac 12) received some outstanding play by their two freshmen sensations, forward TJ Leaf and point guard Lonzo Ball, who spurred on the Bruins to a 95-79 victory over Washington State (11-11, 4-6 Pac 12).
“I thought our freshmen were really good,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “They were outstanding tonight. I think you could tell that week really helped them. They came back really fresh.”
Fresh indeed, Leaf led the Bruins in scoring and rebounding, notching a double-double in the process. Leaf scored 32 points, the second most by Bruin freshman behind, Don McLean’s 41 points in the 1988-89 season and the most since Bryce Alford scored 31 in a losing effort against Oregon in 2014. Leaf also led the Bruins with 14 boards.
“We did a lot of good things,” Alford said. “Other than the first eight minutes of the second half, I thought defensively we were a lot better and we were a lot more active.”
“We had 25 deflections on the night which is something we wanted to do to be disruptive and that helped our offense get back in the 90's again. I thought TJ did a really good job of going at him.”
Ball was a main culprit in deflections and he did more than just deflect, he came up with five steals to go with his 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Thomas Welsh regained his shooting touch scoring 17 points and added six boards to the cause. Aaron Holiday came off the bench to score 13 points and chipped in five assists.
The Bruins were also outstanding taking care of the basketball. UCLA had 21 assists and only six turnovers. The Bruins shot 57.6 percent from the floor and 84.2 from the foul line. UCLA’s three-ball, is still missing in action, hitting an arctic 18.8 percent from beyond the arc.
“Well, we still scored in the 90’s,” Alford said. “Not a lot of free throws or threes we made tonight and we still got in the 90's so that is a positive that we can find different ways of doing it when teams take something away from us. I thought they were very concerned about the three ball rightly so but I think that opened up a lot of driving lanes and things at the basket and our guys did a good job with that.”
With the win over the Cougars, the Bruins were able to reach the magical 20 win plateau for the season. Excellent bounce back for the program who hit on hard times a year ago.
“Well, I am just proud of the team,” Alford said. “I think they have done a lot of great things already this year and it's not easy. College basketball is hard. To get wins on the road is hard and to bounce back after two losses is hard and difficult. So, I am just really proud of them how they fought and competed and did enough to come out with a win tonight.”
The Bruins will be looking for their second road sweep of the season when they meet up with Washington in Seattle on Saturday Night (Feb. 4, 2017) at 7:30PM PST. The game will be televised on the Pac 12 Network.