Are you not entertained?!
Wow. Those of you brave enough to stay up not only for tip-off but for overtime, were treated with an instant classic.
The game started off slow, with both teams seemingly having a lid on the rim. Villanova’s Justin Moore got into early foul trouble which hindered the Wildcats offense severely in the early-going. However, just past the midway mark of the second half, we saw the game really live up to its main event billing. Shot after shot was connecting for both teams and halftime was no deterrent. Villanova opened up a ten-point lead in the second half but got cold at the worst of times. With 30 seconds to go UCLA’s Jules Bernard chucked up a well-defended jumper that smacked off the backboard and went in to tie the game at 67 apiece. Villanova’s Justin Moore would have the last shot of regulation but could not finish through heavy contact under the basket. Feeding off the energy from the crowd, UCLA ran away with the overtime session and outscored Villanova 19-10 to secure a signature home victory.
The Bruins were missing their big man in the middle, Cody Riley, as he suffered what seems to be a mild knee injury in UCLA’s opening night win at Cal State Bakersfield. Without Riley, the Bruins rallied on the boards and in the paint with junior guard Jamie Jaquez Jr. leading the way with a career-high 13 (!!) rebounds. Additionally, the Bruins enjoyed a dominant second half for Wooden Award Watchlist member Johnny Juzang, who started the second half connecting on all six of his shots out of the break. UCLA will now turn their attention to a matchup on Monday with Long Beach State and try to piece together an early win streak in what feels like a special year for the Bruins.
As for Villanova, this game is going to be a great lesson in the locker room moving forward. Coming into Pauley is tough enough, but when you are playing the first top-five matchup there in over thirty years, the odds feel stacked against you. They played extremely well on the national stage, and will only get better from here. The Wildcats were led in the game by ‘Big Game’ Jermaine Samuels’ 20 points and got a major contribution from big man Eric Dixon in the paint. For Dixon, this was certainly his best game as a Wildcat and although it may not show it in the stat sheet, he was a dominant force underneath, which is a GREAT sign moving forward for Villanova.
‘Nobody should have lost that game’ Bruins head coach Mick Cronin said after the game. Playing in front of celebrities such as Jessica Alba, Cedric the Entertainer, Dave Roberts, and more, these two teams did not disappoint at all. It was brought up during the broadcast a lot tonight, but do not be surprised if these teams meet again in late March or even early April. This game felt like we were watching an Elite Eight game and it’s only November. Both programs should be feeling very good coming out of this contest and only time will tell how the rest of this season unfolds.