Los Angeles, CA – In what was the finale of a four game home stand to open up UCLA’s season, the Bruins (4-0) defeated their cross-town opponent, Long Beach State 49ers (2-3) 77-63. UCLA was looking to continue their hot start to the season by defeating another underdog opponent, only this game turned out to be a much tougher win than were the previous three.
The 49ers started off on a good pace, taking an early 17-13 lead after a nice and-1 layup by freshman forward Jack Williams was followed up by a deep 3-pointer by fellow frosh guard, Deontae North. Long Beach appeared poised to hang in with the much bigger and taller UCLA team, but a surprising lack of first half production from senior guards Tyler Lamb and Mike Caffey (combined 0-of-6 FG & four turnovers) eventually led to a stagnant 49ers offensive attack. Lamb, a UCLA transfer, appeared over-anxious at times looking to get off to a strong start against his former team.
On the other side of the ball, UCLA sophomore guard Norman Powell was lighting it up from the floor all night. Powell proved he is a legitimate threat from beyond the arc, as he connected on 4-of-7 from the 3-point line (52.4% from three for the season). Fortunately for UCLA, Powell is able to capitalize on the numerous catch-and-shoot opportunities he gets as a result of dribble-drive penetrations from his point guard, Bryce Alford. Although only in his sophomore year, Alford (6’3”)has the size and speed to penetrate into the lane against any defender and find the open spot up 3-point shooter. Tonight, that shooter was Powell, finishing as the game’s leading scorer with 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
The second half of the game proved to be much more competitive than UCLA had hoped for after taking a solid 42-31 lead into the half. Long Beach started a comeback thanks in large part to Caffey’s second half reemergence. He scored nine straight points for the 49ers, cutting the UCLA lead to 46-40 with 16:34 remaining in the game. After a UCLA timeout, the Bruins came roaring back with back-to-back three’s by Alford and Powell, extending the UCLA lead back to 12. Despite the strong continued effort from Caffey, Long Beach could not provide their star with any offensive support, scoring only 13 combined points in support of the 19 total second half points put up by Caffey alone. To make matters worse, the 49ers turned the ball over 19 times, leading to 25 UCLA points off of those turnovers.
Although Powell’s offense is what sparked the Bruins offensive attack, UCLA again received an all-around solid effort from their starting five as they all scored in double digits. Particularly impressive has been the play of freshman forward Kevon Looney. In UCLA’s four games this year, the 6’9” athletic big man has put up double digit numbers in all but one game, coming up just one rebound shy of four straight double-doubles to start off his collegiate career. With the ability to step out 10 feet from the hoop and shoot the pick-and –pop shot, as well as clean up misses on the offensive boards, Looney is going to make a heck of a frontcourt tandem with UCLA’s other 6’9” forward, Tony Parker.
UCLA will now head out for Paradise Island in the Bahamas to begin the three day “Battle 4 Atlantis” tournament. They will be tested against a much stronger group of opponents than has been the case in their first four home games. It should be interesting to see how their freshman duo performs in their first road trip away from Pauley Pavilion. As for the Long Beach State 49ers, they hit the road for the Thanksgiving Day “Wooden Legacy Tournament” game against Western Michigan before returning home to face Nevada the following Wednesday. The 49ers will look to win these next two games before embarking on a brutal six-game road trip that has them facing four nationally ranked teams.
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