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AUGUST 23, 2016 | UCLA MEN'S BASKETBALL WEBSITE | ARTICLE LINK
Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf and Ike Anigbogu make their UCLA debuts in Sydney, Australia.
SYDNEY, Australia – Seven Bruins scored in double figures as the UCLA men's basketball team cruised past Sydney University, 123-76, before a capacity crowd at Brydens Stadium on Tuesday night.
More than 48 hours after arriving in Sydney on Sunday morning, the Bruins didn't waste any time in sharing the ball and taking a double-digit lead in the first quarter. UCLA finished with 33 assists on 49 made field goals and tallied 18 blocks.
Playing four 10-minute quarters, the Bruins used a 9-0 run to lead 22-10 after a 3-pointer by Isaac Hamilton with 3:13 to go in the opening period. UCLA's cushion never fell to fewer than 10 points.
UCLA's three incoming freshmen accounted for 46 of the Bruins' 123 points. TJ Leaf finished with 21 points, while Ike Anigbogu had 16 and Lonzo Ball totaled nine.
In his first game wearing the blue and gold, Ball elicited the loudest cheers from the crowd even as the game was out of reach. With UCLA ahead, 114-69, he stole the ball at midcourt with 3:29 to play and outran one defender before throwing down a slick one-handed jam – one of many dunks for the Bruins on Tuesday. After the game, he was only thinking about UCLA's next game.
"We came out and did what we're supposed to do," said Ball, a 6-foot-6 guard from Chino Hills, Calif. "Now we've got to go back, get some rest, go to the next city and do the same thing. It's all about taking this day by day, because it's a long journey."
UCLA head coach Steve Alford, entering his fourth season at the helm in Westwood, was encouraged with the performance of the team's three freshmen.
"They were outstanding, all three of them – Ike, Lonzo and TJ," Coach Alford said. "We know what they can do. They came here in their first exhibition game and all three played very well."
The Bruins' returning players were equally impressive in a balanced offensive attack. Senior guards Isaac Hamilton andBryce Alford tallied 18 and 17 points, respectively. Junior G.G. Goloman and sophomore Alex Olesinski each scored 11 points, while junior Thomas Welsh made each of his first four shots – all in the first quarter – and finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
The balance and firepower between UCLA's newcomers and veterans was more than apparent for the 2,000-plus fans in attendance on Tuesday night.
"A lot of the vets on this team have experienced the good, and then they experienced the bad last year," Coach Alford said. "They know which taste tastes better. When you put three very good freshmen in that mix, if we can stay healthy, I think we'll be a team that continues to get better."
UCLA led by a 29-16 margin after the first quarter and opened the second period with a 19-3 scoring run to lead, 48-19 at the 3:13 mark. The Bruins entered their locker room at halftime ahead, 58-28. UCLA kept its foot on the gas pedal in the third quarter, staking itself to a 39-point lead moving into the final period (91-52).
After weeks of summer practices and intersquad scrimmages, Tuesday's game came as a welcome change of pace for the Bruins.
"We've been looking forward to this because you get tired of going up against your teammates on a regular basis in the offseason," Bryce Alford said. "Finally, we all got to be on the same team together and got to see how we're going to mesh."
UCLA had no issues meshing in its first exhibition contest. The Bruins churned out 33 assists and committed just eight turnovers. Holiday was responsible for nine of those assists, finishing with 10 rebounds, eight points and three blocks in a team-high 26 minutes.
"I thought we played well today, and once we get to that next game, we'll just have to build from there," said Holiday, who averaged 10.6 points in all 32 games last season. "By the time we get to our third game on this trip, we should be at our best. It's not going to take long to get more comfortable with each other."
Not only were the points evenly distributed along UCLA's offense, the minutes were too. The Bruins employed different starting lineups between each half and will continue to tinker with various combinations. No player had more than 27 minutes on the court.
Moving forward, the Bruins will have three days without a game before returning to action against the Melbourne United on Saturday evening.
"I thought that this was a tremendous start," Coach Alford said. "It was very similar to what we have seen in practice. We have high-level guys with a lot of talent who can really score the basketball."
With his first game under his felt, Leaf was encouraged with his new team's initial impressions. The 6-foot-9 forward from El Cajon, Calif., made 10 of 18 shots, including one 3-pointer, and grabbed nine rebounds.
"It was so much fun to be on the court with all of my guys," Leaf said. "With that first game, you're wondering how it's going to go. But it definitely went well, and I'm excited to see where that can take us."
As for improvements?
"Well, we need to get a lot better on defense," Leaf added. "From reading screens, to reading a lot of other things. We can't let teams go baseline like they did. Our offense looked good, and we're proud of that. But we know we have to keep working on defense so that we're in top shape this fall."
UCLA will remain in Sydney on Wednesday before making the 90-minute flight south toward Melbourne on Thursday. Until then, more sightseeing is in order for the Bruins.
Tuesday began with a short walk to Sydney's Circular Quay and the historic Sydney Opera House. Weather pending, Wednesday's schedule could include a trip to the world-famous Bondi Beach.
Fans can keep up with the team's travels in Australia by following the team's official social media channels in addition to uclabruins.com. Follow "UCLAMBB" on Twitter (@UCLAMBB), Instagram (UCLAMBB), Facebook (facebook.com/uclamensbasketball) and Snapchat (uclambb).
For all the reports from Australia 2016 go to link.