LOS ANGELES — UCLA freshman Jaylen Hands said he isn’t as explosive as he wants to be since he’s retuned from a foot injury.
Imagine the kind of dunks he can score on when he’s 100 per cent. The assortment of high-flying dunks he threw down Sunday were quite impressive.
Hands scored a career-high 23 points off the bench, and Prince Ali added 20 points to lead UCLA to a 106-73 win over Detroit Mercy on Sunday.
The Bruins (7-1) have won four consecutive games. Detroit Mercy (4-4) has lost its last two.
“That was the most fun we had in a game this year, so that was a good thing,” Hands said. “It’s a confidence booster going into the next stretch of games we have before conference play.”
Hands scored 17 of his 23 points in the first half. The true freshman was seemingly unstoppable in transition. Twice in the first half, Hands turned his own steal into breakaway, high-flying dunks. One was a right-handed dunk and the other was of the two-handed variety. The freshman made his first four shots.
As for not getting that explosiveness he wants, Hands said: “That second (dunk) was pretty bad. I had to hang on the rim because I didn’t think I was going to make it. No more of that.”
You know it was a good day for UCLA when its high scorer was critical of his dunks. He’s not critical, however, about his place. He’s been coming off the bench but played 24 minutes Sunday, fourth most on the team.
“It’s all based on winning so I’ll do whatever I need to do to get a win for our team,” Hands said. “I think as the season goes along I’m getting more comfortable and more aware of my spots on the floor to be effective.”
UCLA was grooving in transition with all sorts of dunks from just about everyone, Kris Wilkes and Chris Smith included. On consecutive offensive plays, Wilkes scored on a highlight-reel two-handed reverse dunk and then a layup. Hands had a reverse dunk, too.
The Bruins made 11 3-pointers in the first half, shooting 44 per cent from behind the arc.
UCLA’s defence forced the Titans into 12 turnovers, and they shot 33 per cent from behind the arc.
“I thought that was maybe our most complete game,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said. “I was really pleased with the 40-minute effort. We were concerned with their 3-point shooting and how much they score the basketball. To put two halves together defensively like we did, it was very good for us. We were really efficient offensively. I think our offensive efficiency hit 133 tonight. Really pleased with that. Everybody that played, played well. Those are always fun nights.”
For Detroit Mercy, Kameron Chatman scored a team-best 18 points, and Corey Allen added 15.
“You saw what they did,” Detroit Mercy coach Bacari Alexander said. “They really turned it up. It was all of our mistakes. If you don’t box out or leave a guy open, they’re going to score. They were in relaxed mode the entire game. We didn’t slow them down or limit them to one shot.”
UCLA got 25 points from its bench in the first half to help build its 52-35 halftime lead. The Bruins continued to push the ball up the floor in the second half as well, and that was something the Titans couldn’t slow down. The UCLA bench finished with 50 points.
The Titans couldn’t keep up with the speed and passing and transition game of the Bruins in this contest and therefore never challenged. They were also outrebounded, 47-29.
“I thought we really got it going with our defence,” Ali said. “We knew coming in that they played very fast. We knew if we were able to get stops that we’d be able to run. And we got stops.”
PARTY LIKE IT’S 1999
The only other time the teams have played was in the NCAA Tournament in 1999, and Detroit Mercy upset UCLA in the first round as a No. 12 seed.
Detroit Mercy will learn much about its mental makeup during the next two weeks after this loss at UCLA and a key game against Michigan on Dec. 16 on the road.
UCLA is gearing up for pivotal matchups when it plays at Michigan on Saturday and hosts No. 11 Cincinnati on Dec. 16, both of which are nationally televised games.
CHAMPIONSHIP NO. 114
Alford gave a shoutout in his news conference to the UCLA men’s water polo team, which won the school’s 114th national championship on Sunday with a 7-5 victory over USC. The men’s basketball team has 11 of those championships, 10 of which came under John Wooden. The UCLA women’s soccer team also played for a national championship on Sunday but lost to Stanford.
Detroit Mercy: Hosts Toledo on Wednesday night.
UCLA: Hosts Montana on Wednesday night.