The UCLA Bruins moved past Tulsa 76-59 tonight and will get ready to play Stephen F. Austin on Sunday. UCLA, which has not made it to the Sweet 16 since 2008, is playing like a team with supreme confidence moving forward and has fans thinking the Bruins have a legitimate shot not only at making it to the Sweet 16, but perhaps all the way to the Elite 8. The Bruins last night showed the amount of depth and confidence they have on their team with their top player, Kyle Anderson, struggling from the field only scoring eight and yet were still was able to win by a margin of 17. Jordan Adams ultimately led the Bruins with 21 points followed by Norman Powell adding 15 points.
The Tulsa Golden Hurricanes would not go quietly in this game. Tulsa was down five points at halftime and let the Bruins extend their lead two more times in the second half before rallying it to within five again. The Golden Hurricanes were ultimately defeated by the amount of turnovers given up to the Bruins where the Bruins won that category by a plus-six margin. The UCLA Bruins nabbed 11 steals and forced 16 turnovers from the Golden Hurricanes who only had two. Tulsa rallied back yet again to a five point deficit with roughly five minutes left to play. Shortly after though, UCLA went on a 10-2 run to put the game out of reach of the Golden Hurricanes sparked by Norman Powell playing in his hometown San Diego. The final dagger came on a monster dunk by Powell followed shortly by a steal by Powell who then assisted a layup by Jordan Adams. The UCLA Bruins will go on to face Stephen F. Austin in the Round of 32.
As excited as the UCLA Bruins fans are thinking about the possibility of making it to the Sweet 16, the number 12 seed Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks are not a team the Bruins can look past. The Lumberjacks played a very good VCU team and was able to fight back in that game being down 10 points with three minutes to play. The comeback and momentum all shifted to the Lumberjacks after Jacob Parker nailed a three pointer while getting fouled to complete a four-point play, tying the game with three seconds left to play. If the Lumberjacks can carry that glass slipper along with the momentum gained from that game, the Bruins will certainly have their hands full.
However, the Bruins are not VCU. VCU was without their third best leading scorer in the game Friday night and were ranked 105th in offensive efficiency. Compare that to UCLA, who is ranked 10th in the nation on offense. Also, one major stat to take from the first round game the Lumberjacks played against VCU was the turnover margin. The Lumberjacks had a minus-six turnover margin in their game against VCU and got the ball stolen from them 17 times (four more than UCLA forced in the first round). Seeing what the Bruins were able to accomplish with their turnover margin in the first round, if the Lumberjacks give up the ball that many times to the Bruins Sunday night, do not expect the Bruins to make the same mistake twice in letting Stephen F. Austin to hang around.
If Florida gets by a pesky Pittsburgh team today and the Bruins can get by the Lumberjacks, do not expect UCLA to be afraid to take on the number one seed Gators. The Pac-12 Tournament Champions have proven that they can hang with the big boys by beating a different number one team in the Pac-12 Championship, the Arizona Wildcats. UCLA fans have a right to think that their Bruins can make it to the Sweet 16… or even perhaps the Elite 8. If the Bruins can get the kind of production they usually expect out of Kyle Anderson, the amount of scoring and depth they possess on offense can make this UCLA team not just sweet, but perhaps even elite.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles