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Monday / February 20.

Michigan, Ohio State Coaches Rave About UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf

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UCLA is coming off an impressive win over one Big Ten team and will face another on Saturday.

So it’s no surprise that Michigan coach John Beilein and Ohio State coach Thad Matta are both raving about the No. 2 and undefeated Bruins (10-0).

“Anybody that goes into Kentucky and puts 100 points on them as well or whatever they put up on them is a really, really good offense,” Beilein said of the Bruins on Monday’s Big Ten conference call. “They’re just an excellent team. [T.J.] Leaf and [Lonzo] Ball have just made a non-qualifying NCAA Tournament team last year into one of the top five team in the country.”

Leaf scored 21 points and Ball added 19 as UCLA shot 67 percent in beating Michigan 102-84 on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins made 15 3-pointers in the game.

“The concern was guarding them on the perimeter and staying in front of them as they drove the ball,” Beilein said.

“They spread us. It’s very rare you have four guys out there all shooting 40 percent. We had a great shooter in Duncan Robinson and they had four guys shooting like Duncan Robinson and they’re also good at going off the dribble.”

Ohio State will face the Bruins on Saturday in Las Vegas in the CBS Sports Classic, a doubleheader that will also feature Kentucky against North Carolina.

Matta knows he’ll have his hands full with Ball, a projected top-5 pick in the NBA Draft, and his teammates, too.

“With his size and athleticism, obviously he’s making great decisions,” Matta said. “I think he’s got a tremendous future ahead of him and we’ve got to do a great job of taking away what he likes to do and hope for the best with him. [He’s a] tremendous player, there’s no question about that and he’s obviously playing at a very high level right now.”

Matta sees some similarities between Ball and former Ohio State and current Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell.

“I haven’t seen a ton of [Ball] yet, more just clips, but I can see the comparison there, no question about it,” Matta said.


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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.