Saturday, November 26, 2016

No. 14 UCLA Advances With 82-71 Win Over Nebraska

NOV 25, 2016 | ucla men's basketball website | ARTICLE LINK

FULLERTON, Calif. – Bryce Alford scored a team-high 18 points and Lonzo Ball had 13 points and seven assists as No. 14 UCLA advanced to the Wooden Legacy championship game with an 82-71 win over Nebraska on Friday night.

The Bruins (6-0) led at halftime, 38-25, and saw their cushion fall to as few as five points with 4:29 left in the second half.

A step-back three-pointer by Isaac Hamilton gave UCLA a 72-64 lead with 3:38 to play and, after a layup by Nebraska's Tai Webster, TJ Leaf nailed a jump shot with 2:57 to go, putting the Bruins back ahead by eight.

Nebraska guard Glynn Watson Jr. scored a game-high 27 points, connecting on 10 of 18 shots and 3 of 7 attempts from beyond the three-point arc.

Hamilton finished with 15 points and five rebounds, Leaf logged 12 points, four rebounds and four assists and Thomas Welsh had his fourth double-double in six games (12 points, 11 rebounds). In all, UCLA had five players who scored in double figures.

"I told the team that we needed this game," UCLA head coach Steve Alford said. "We haven't had a game like that this year where adversity hit us. We played awfully well in the first half, defensively, and felt we got comfortable and satisfied. It was a great lesson for us. Nebraska is a well-coached team and they guarded us well."

Friday's win also saw the return – and official collegiate debut – of freshman forward/center Ike Anigbogu, a 6-foot-10 standout from Corona, Calif., who missed the season's first four weeks with a right knee injury. Anigbogu had two points, two rebounds and two blocks in six minutes off the bench.

UCLA's 11-point win over the Cornhuskers (4-1) propelled the Bruins into the championship game against Texas A&M on Sunday, Nov. 27, at the Honda Center (Anaheim). The Bruins and Aggies will play at 5:30 p.m. (PT) in a title tilt that will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Against Nebraska on Friday, Ball was particularly efficient for the Bruins. The 6-foot-6 freshman guard made 5 of 9 shots from the field – including 3 of 5 attempts from three-point range – and had seven assists and just one turnover. Ball played through the latter portion of the second half in foul trouble before drawing his fifth foul with 90 seconds to play.

Ball opened the game's second half with a highlight-reel alley-oop dunk, just eight seconds after halftime. Leaf, a freshman 6-foot-10 forward, found his classmate open and moving on the baseline, connecting with a perfect pass to a rising Ball. The thunderous dunk put UCLA ahead 40-25, before Nebraska cut its deficit to three points – 51-48 – over the next six minutes.

With UCLA ahead 49-37 at the 16:07 mark, Nebraska had a layup from Watson Jr. and a three-pointer and ensuing layup from Webster to cut the Bruins' margin to 49-44.

Leading 51-48 and Nebraska looking to tie the game, Ball hit a clutch three-pointer with 12:23 to play and give UCLA a 54-48 cushion.

Every time Nebraska pulled to within two or three points, UCLA had an answer. After a Watson Jr. three-pointer pulled the Huskers to 58-56 at the 9:26 mark, Ball found an open Hamilton, who hit a three-pointer, before Holiday drove to the hoop for a layup and a UCLA seven-point cushion.

UCLA finished the semifinal game with 21 assists and just eight turnovers, giving the team season totals of 150 assists and 70 turnovers – good for a 2.1 assist-turnover ratio.

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