After impressive wins over Long Beach St. and Portland, the Bruins took a major step backward Tuesday night. Northern Arizona came into the game a twenty-point underdog, with only nine healthy players, and they still managed to pull off the upset over UCLA.
UCLA hasn't been a good defensive team for the last couple years and that weakness came back to haunt them again. Northern Arizona doesn't have much of an inside game, so it was clear the Lumberjacks would have to depend on their perimeter game. Northern Arizona came into the game hitting 41% of their three-point attempts, yet UCLA seemed unaware of the Lumberjacks' ability to hit the outside shot. Time after time, Northern Arizona managed to get wide-open looks beyond the three-point line.
UCLA's press caused problems for Northern Arizona in the first half, but the Bruins inexplicably went away from the press and allowed the Lumberjacks to stay in the game. Northern Arizona only trailed by six at the half. When the Lumberjacks hit three consecutive threes to open the second half, the momentum clearly shifted their way. From that point on, Northern Arizona played with confidence and the belief that they could pull off the upset.
UCLA enjoyed a considerable size advantage inside, but they were out-rebounded 28-25. Ryan McDade came up huge for the Lumberjacks, pulling down 12 rebounds and scoring a game-high 22 points. T.J. Cummings led the Bruins in scoring with 16 points, but he managed only 3 rebounds in 28 minutes.
There weren't many positives for UCLA in this game. But, one bright spot, was the play of Dijon Thompson. He scored 14 points, on 6-11 shooting, and led the team with 6 rebounds.
It's distressing to realize that low to mid major programs no longer have to play at "a magical level" to knock off UCLA in Pauley. Northern Arizona made 6 of 13 free throws. They turned the ball over 19 times. UCLA shot 49% from the field. Northern Arizona didn't need their best game to beat the Bruins, just a good game.
No, you don't have to play a perfect game to beat the Bruins. All that's required these days is a few shooters, one solid interior player, and a game plan that doesn't allow UCLA to play their preferred style, which approximates a pick-up game.
After dropping three of the first five games, UCLA now faces #19-ranked Kansas. The Jayhawks haven't been quite as good as expected, but they have a strong inside game, as well as a pretty effective perimeter game. Saturday in Lawrence could be another tough day for the Bruins.