UCLA’s offense is good. Like, real good. Like, 90 points per game good. It’s what everyone knows about them; it’s their style. Their defense? Well, it’s not nearly of the same caliber. It’s only 74th in KenPom rankings, and it’s certainly weighing down their net ranking. If they had a good defense, they’d be a much stronger force.
Friday night, that lack of a defense is what allowed Kent State to hang around. While the Golden Flashes ultimately fell by a score of 97-80, they fought a close game that was far more interesting than anyone initially thought it might be.
After falling behind by as many as 16 in the first half, it felt as if this game was going to be the UCLA rout that many predicted. T.J. Leaf and Lonzo Ball were, well, balling.
When the second half began, it was a completely different story. Kent State’s Jaylin Walker began to find a shooting rhythm a few minutes into the half, and Deon Edwin made a few clutch free throws to bring the Bruins’ lead to only four. UCLA was vulnerable and on the ropes.
However, UCLA’s Isaac Hamilton responded with a three of his own, stretching the lead out to seven. It was never again a close game after that.
All night long, Kent State was able to hold its own with UCLA on the boards, and they certainly did a great job of cleaning up their own misses. The only problem with that is, of course, that UCLA is simply a far better shooting team. The Bruins had little difficulty shooting over 60 percent from the field, displaying their elite-level offense.
Since Kent State did put up a good fight, it must be noted that two of its players — Jaylin Walker and Jimmy Hall — finished with over 20 points. Hall even had himself a double-double. It was an outstanding night for Hall, a senior who will leave Kent State as a MAC champion.
UCLA will face 6 seed Cincinnati this Sunday.