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UCLA starts fast and finishes in a fury

UCLA hits the NOS late to romp to a 102-84 win over Michigan on a star-studded Saturday night in Pauley Pavilion.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan at UCLA
TJ Leaf and the Bruins are flying high.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I love the Fast & Furious movie franchise.

The movies are irreverent, absurd and awesome. They are self-aware and aren’t afraid to try bigger, better and sometimes laugh-out-loud stunts.

Case in point:

More than anything, they are just fun.

In the very first movie, Jesse, one of Vin Diesel’s buddies, gets the dumb idea to put the pink slip to his dad’s Volkswagen Jetta up against a vastly superior Honda driven by bad guy Tran. Jesse’s logic (spurious in real life, totally sensible in the franchise universe) is that by beating Tran and taking his car as spoils, he and his dad can ride together when his dad is released from prison.

Paul Walker (RIP) tries his hardest to talk Jesse out of the sure loss, but to no avail. Tran has his car souped up to the gills.

The race ensues and sparks one of the first of many, many, many awesome one-liners from this franchise, courtesy of Tran.

Here’s the clip in full:


I had that scene running in my mind as I walked out of Pauley Pavilion on Saturday night after UCLA lit up Michigan for 102 points on just 65 possessions en route to an 18 point win.

Michigan hit the NOS too soon.

In the first half, Michigan shot the lights out, ending the first 20 minutes going 19-29 from the field and making an otherworldly 75% (12-16) of their three pointers. The Wolverines connected on their first 6 attempts from 3 and didn’t look back, and they were already within striking distance of the school record of 17 three pointers within a half.

It was a breathtaking offensive display from a team that scored 52 total points in their last game against Texas. Michigan flew out of the gates in the first half, an offensive performance coach John Beilein could not have even dreamed of going into Saturday.

So how big was their lead against the #2 team in the country on the road in front of a sold out Pauley Pavilion?

Zero.
UCLA and Michigan went into the half tied at 50.

Too soon, junior.


As otherworldly as Michigan’s offense (and UCLA’s exceptionally poor defense) was, UCLA matched them shot for shot. The Bruins themselves hit 10 of their 14 attempted three pointers in the first half and shot 61% overall. Even without starting center Tom Welsh, who bruised his knee and is day-to-day, the Bruins’ offense hummed along like there were no problems.

Coming into Saturday, Michigan had given up an average of 58 a game. Even down a starter, the Bruins nearly hit that in a single half.

On one level, even UCLA fans have to feel for Michigan. I mean, the Wolverines fought and scrapped and built up a 7 point lead with just under a minute and a half left to go, and the large contingency of Michigan fans were making plenty of noise in Pauley.

Yet how frustrating must it have been for Michigan to build a lead like that so close to half, only to watch it slip away on a 10-3 UCLA run to close that ended with this Lonzo Ball shot?

30 feet? Time running low? No problem, tie game.


Michigan continued to fight in the second half, even as the Bruins put together a 10-2 run in 3 minutes to jump out to their largest lead of the game up to that point. Even as the Bruins continued to make shots - they actually shot better in the second half at an absurd 20-29 clip!- Michigan would not go away.

The Wolverines are a very good team that you’ll see in March, and they got to within 5 with under 8 minutes to go.

But the Bruins didn’t miss on Saturday, in keeping with this season’s theme of not missing very often.

After a poor first half in which he shot only 2-6 and looked just off, Isaac Hamilton came alive in the second to make 4 of his 6 shots and score 14 points in 50% shooting.

I mention Hamilton’s 50% shooting, because that was the lowest percentage of any of the 7 Bruins in the rotation.

Bryce Alford continues to thrive in his off-ball role, connecting on 6 of 10 shots and 3 of 6 from deep. He is absolutely lethal as a spot up shooter, and no Bruin has benefited more from the change in offensive scheme from last season.

Aaron Holiday, once again, was superb, connecting on all 5 of his attempted three pointers and finishing with 17 points off the bench. He’s been an absolute joy to watch, and speaking of the Fast & Furious movies, the way he plays with the gas at full throttle with no fear is definitely “ride or die.”

TJ Leaf led the Bruins in points (21), rebounds (8) and minutes (36). He continues to turn heads and make people remember that this freshman class was always more than just Lonzo Ball.

Speaking of turning heads, Leaf did this to poor DJ Wilson that put him on skates.

Without Tom Welsh, Ike Anigbogu was asked to play bigger minutes than he had all season, and he delivered on both ends. On offense, he was ruthlessly efficient, needing only 3 shots to score 6 points, including the easiest 2 points he’ll ever have courtesy of Aaron Holiday.

Ike’s effect was felt most on the defensive end, though, as he blocked 4 shots (6 if you count the two that were called fouls) and terrorized Michigan out of driving into the lane.

His timing is impeccable, and he’s just barely 18!


The Bruins are back in action tomorrow night against a struggling UC Santa Barbara squad. It should serve as a nice tune up before they hit the road to Vegas to take on another Big Ten opponent in Ohio State on Saturday.

If you haven’t gone to see them yet, go do so right away. Otherwise, you’re missing out on all the fun.

The defense is juuuuuust good enough to skate by for now (though it will have to get better for conference play and March), but the offense is absurd. Only GG Golomon and Tom Welsh aren’t three point threats, and even those two - Welsh especially with his lethal midrange baseline jumper - are skilled big men in their own rights. Once Prince Ali returns, there will be another guard to spell Hamilton and Alford, especially on defense.

This UCLA team is so good that the stars are starting to come out to Westwood to get a look.

Sup, Vince Vaughn?

Jessica Alba was also there Saturday (her father-in-law, Mike Warren, played for UCLA).

The Bruins even made all-time legend Bill Walton happy.

The Bruins are playing ball a quarter mile at a time, and 10 games in, no one’s had the horsepower to keep up alongside them.