In what was a long Friday of upsets, Monmouth pulled a big one against one of the most storied programs in college basketball history.
Monmouth — a MAAC school from New Jersey — went across the country to Pauley Pavilion and upset UCLA 84-81 in overtime. Not only that, but the Hawks did it after being down 13 points with 12 minutes left in the game.
This one was an all-around nightmare for the Bruins, who turned the ball over 23 times while only forcing seven themselves. It was a very careless performance from the backcourt particularly, as Isaac Hamilton, Bryce Alford and Aaron Holiday combined to shoot 8 for 36 from the field with 14 turnovers. On the other side, Justin Robinson, Micah Seaborn and Je’lon Hornbeak continually pressed the action against the UCLA guards and forced them to defend. UCLA’s Tony Parker did his part on the inside with 19 points and 19 rebounds, but that just wasn’t enough to get it done.
“We’ve got to figure out how we can get average before we can take a step toward being good. Because we’re bad right now,” Bruins coach Steve Alford said about his team after the game.
Monmouth is one of the better teams in the MAAC and could make an NCAA Tournament run this season. Plus, UCLA was without Jonah Bolden due to disciplinary reasons, and he figures to be a major part of what the Bruins do both on offense and in matching up defensively.
But this is just, simply put, an inexcusable loss for the Bruins. The group that they put on the floor had more than enough talent to pull this game out, but silly turnovers and some bad shots late in regulation ended up sinking them. It’ll be interesting to see how the Bruins rebound, as each of their next two opponents — Cal Poly and Pepperdine — are pretty similar in quality to Monmouth. Following those two, the Bruins still have later nonconference games against UNLV, Long Beach State and Louisiana-Lafayette — all of whom figure to be near the top of their leagues — as well as heavyweight battles against North Carolina, Kentucky and Gonzaga
It’s now incumbent upon Alford to get his team together and to get this backcourt into a better place so that it doesn’t drop the games it needs to win in this nonconference slate. Due to those eight tough mathcups remaining on the nonconference schedule, the Bruins will be battle-tested before getting into Pac-12 season.
But that also means there’s not a night that they can take off either, a lesson they likely learned Friday against Monmouth.