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Monday, December 12, 2016
OCR: Freshmen T.J. Leaf and Lonzo Ball help No. 2 UCLA beat Michigan, 102-84
NOV 10, 2016 | clay
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LOS ANGELES – UCLA’s welcome-home party turned out to be just that.
Complete with celebrities among the sellout crowd Saturday night, the Bruins’ first game this season as the No. 2 team in the country looked for a moment like it might be spoiled.
After trailing hot-shooting Michigan late in the first half, UCLA pulled away for a 102-84 victory at Pauley Pavilion to the delight of Vince Vaughn, Jessica Alba and the rest of the 13,571 in attendance.
UCLA’s largest home crowd since hosting Arizona three years ago watched the Bruins move to 10-0, the program’s best start to a season since 2006.
“It’s a dream come true to be able to play in front of a sold-out place at UCLA,” said senior Bryce Alford, who scored 18 points. “This has been the most full I’ve seen it and the loudest I’ve seen it. It’s probably the most fun I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Five players scored in double figures led by freshman T.J. Leaf’s 21 and UCLA followed one of its worst defensive halves of the season with one of its best.
Michigan (7-3) shot 65 percent in the first half, including 12 for 16 on 3-pointers, plenty of which were uncontested. But the Wolverines’ shooting percentage plummeted to 34 percent in the second half.
UCLA’s offense, meanwhile, was unceasing. The second-highest scoring team in the country made 10 3-pointers on just 14 attempts in the first half and followed with a haymaker of a second half, shooting 74 percent from the field. Michigan didn’t go quietly, but the Wolverines eventually realized they couldn’t keep up.
“It got to be a gun-slinging deal in the first half and it continued in the second half,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “Those are games we like to play in ... we’re accustomed to 40 minutes of running and shooting.”
The freshman trio of Leaf, Lonzo Ball and Ike Anigbogu made 18 of their 26 field-goal attempts. Ball finished with 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting with seven rebounds and a season-low four assists. The team leading the country in assists still managed 23, led by Isaac Hamilton’s seven to go along with the senior’s 14 points.
Despite UCLA playing the game at its tempo – the Bruins average the 10th most possessions per game in Division I while Michigan averages the fourth fewest – it trailed by seven points with 1:22 left in the first half.
UCLA bridged the first and second halves with a 19-3 run that included a deep 3-pointer by Ball to pull the Bruins even just before halftime, similar to the shot he made in a victory over then-No. 1 Kentucky a week earlier at the end of the first half.
“We knew Michigan was going to give us a good punch,” Ball said. “We took it. Obviously we weren’t playing defense at all in the first half. Then we came out and did what we were supposed to do.”
UCLA strung together a 10-2 run to begin the second half, but Michigan whittled the lead to five with 8:06 left in the game.
The Bruins crushed any Michigan hopes with a 17-6 run punctuated by a Bryce Alford 3-pointer and a breakaway dunk by Leaf that drew the loudest roar of the night.
Final exams were over Friday, but UCLA passed another test Saturday night, their first after taking down Kentucky. The Bruins’ limitations are something they have yet to learn.
“The sky is the limit,” Ball said. “As long as we defend, who knows what the limit is. We’re going for a championship this year. That’s the goal. And we don’t play to lose.”