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Belmont was able to beat UCLA because of Rick Byrd’s coaching

The man on the sideline helped Belmont win the Battle of the Bruins.

NCAA Basketball: Belmont at Texas Christian Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Belmont bested UCLA in the battle of the Bruins, 74-72, on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion with a late run in the second half. Coach Rick Byrd drew up a fantastic play that set up Kevin McClain’s layup with 2.3 seconds to go.

Just watch the beauty of this play. The play starts with point guard Grayson Murphy putting the defense to sleep. Belmont started the possession with 24 seconds left, the traditional play would try to get a quick shot so they could have time to foul on ensuing miss. However, Byrd doesn’t need two chances and went for the throat right away. It looks like Murphy is looking to make a read off of a high ball screen, and it looks like UCLA has them trapped as Belmont begins to scramble. However, Belmont clears the paint as they frantically move towards Murphy. This motion draws the UCLA defense out and leaves the paint wide open for McClain as he goes for his backdoor cut. McClain beautifully sets up UCLA guard Jaylen Hands with a hard first step towards Grayson before he makes his cut to the basket and uses the other side of the basket to prevent a crazy block from UCLA flying forward Cody Riley. Rick Bryd ran the same play earlier this year to get a key bucket against Lipscomb late.

After a timeout, UCLA turned the ball over on the ensuing possession when UCLA’s Cody Riley threw the ball out of bounds near mid-court. Belmont clinched the game on the ensuing free throw and walked away with the upset.

UCLA led Belmont by as many as 14 points in the second half. However, Byrd’s Belmont Bruins relentlessly clawed their way back and were able to seal the upset victory in the closing minutes. The Belmont Bruins shocked a crowd of 8,031 people while achieving their greatest start in school history against one of college basketball’s blue blood programs.

UCLA struggled from the free throw line, shooting an abysmal 12-26, and missed seven out of their last nine to end the game. Noticing this, Byrd was willing to send UCLA big men to the line, and that is how Belmont was able to get back in the game. Additionally, UCLA got two offensive rebounds on their free throw misses, and they still were not able to get points in those possessions. UCLA was never able to use its physical advantage to exploit Belmont in the final minutes.

UCLA controlled the whole game, but Belmont still pulled through late. UCLA was able to extend a double-digit lead on three different occasions during the game, twice in the first half and once in the second. Belmont didn’t waiver, but stayed aggressive and continued to play its game. Despite a cold shooting start, two big UCLA runs, and a subpar performance from Dylan Windler, Belmont only trailed by three at halftime.

After UCLA imposed its will on Belmont for a majority of the game, Belmont finally gained its first lead since the opening possession when McClain hit a three to put the Bruins up 67-66 with 2:45 to go. Belmont executed down the stretch, getting easy buckets around the basket and executing set plays while UCLA got flustered. UCLA had a win probability hovering between 75-80 percent until the last three minutes of the contest. It was apparent that UCLA had the more talented roster, but it was even easier to see that Belmont was the better-coached team.

This was a huge win that can be added to the Belmont resume. The success is a testament to the culture that Byrd has set in place. Belmont played a sub-par game in Pauley, but it was still able to pull out a win when UCLA gave it a chance. That is what good teams do; they execute in the most critical moments.

On the other side, this makes UCLA a bubble team at best and raises Steve Alford’s temperature on the hot seat. There is typically no shame in losing to Belmont, but UCLA is no typical team. It will be interesting to follow both sets of Bruins moving forward.