UCLA Bruins Win Comfortably Over Seattle 78-52
The Bruins finally looked like the team that barnstormed the conference to end last season.
What a difference one player can make.
Following last week’s triple-overtime victory over Pepperdine, I lamented how much the UCLA Bruins seemingly missed their workhorse center Jalen Hill. So it was a great sign to see Hill was cleared to play tonight, and his return to action helped key a UCLA victory over the Seattle Redhawks by the score of 78-52.
It’s hard to overstate just what Hill brings to this team, but it starts on the defensive end. Hill is a natural defender that shows exceptional instincts both on-ball and as a helper. The eye test holds up on this end, as UCLA’s defensive intensity picked up considerably once he entered the game for the first time, while advanced stats also back this statement up. UCLA posted an astronomical 95.5% stop rating when Hill was on the court, which makes sense since Seattle just could not get anything going offensively when he was playing. His 64.2 defensive rating (essentially the number of points scored per 100 possessions, so lower the better) led the team, while he posted a ridiculous 13.3% block rating (percentage of possessions player records a block on, adjusted for minutes).
Hill’s return helped unlock the version of UCLA that ended last season in a myriad of ways. With Hill and Riley manning the back end, the Bruins were able to be more aggressive at the point of attack, with Tyger Campbell and David Singleton both grabbing two steals apiece. Meanwhile, the Bruins were a force on the glass, outrebounding the Redhawks by a monstrous 42-24 margin. Hill alone grabbed 10 rebounds, only beaten by Chris Smith’s 11. Offensively, the Bruins were more aggressive in driving and getting points in the paint and were rewarded for their aggression by drawing a larger amount of free throws.
With Hill back in the rotation, UCLA was able to unlock the best version of Cody Riley, who works best as a complement rather than a one-for-one replacement. The Redhawks had no real answer for Riley on the offensive end, and there were less concerns about Riley getting into foul trouble as the Bruins had actual depth inside. Riley and Hill work as an exceptional one-two punch because their individual games are so different, forcing opposing teams to try and react on the fly to them.
Really, this game flipped with 4:45 left in the first half, as UCLA turned to the Campbell-Singleton-Jaime Jaquez Jr.-Smith-Hill lineup that started for UCLA during their stretch run last season. That particular lineup was able to shut down the Redhawks while slowly building the lead, opening up a one-point lead to 14 by halftime, and eventually growing the lead to 18 before Seattle finally scored again early in the second half. I wouldn’t be surprised if Coach Mick Cronin decides to run with this lineup on Sunday against UC Berkeley just to get the Bruins back to their strong ways early.
In the end, UCLA was able to coast to victory for the first time this season. They did exactly what they should have done against an outmatched opponent, which is definitely an improvement on where they’ve been this season. That’s something to build on going forward.
Tyger Campbell led the Bruins with 17 points and 6 assists. Chris Smith led the team with 11 rebounds. Riley Grigsby led the Redhawks with 12 points.
Player of the Game: Jalen Hill - I mean, did you really expect me to pick anyone else after all I wrote up there? Hill doesn’t pop on the score sheet like some of the others do, but it’s hard to understate just what he brings to this team. His return could not have come at a more opportune time.
Area of concern: Defensive intensity - Hill’s return came at a good time, because at the start of this game the Bruins continued to look out-of-sorts on the defensive end, giving up a bevy of backdoor cuts and effort points to Seattle. The Bruins really cannot afford to play at that level against better teams, so hopefully this gets corrected.
Shout out to Jules Bernard - I wanted to give a shout-out to Bernard for once-again stepping up and having another great showing, putting up 16 points on 6-8 shooting, including 3-5 from distance. Bernard has stepped up in the absence of Johnny Juzang, and hopefully this level of play can translate over the rest of the season.
UCLA next plays on Sunday, when it takes on UC Berkeley.