Rushed Reactions: UCLA 79, California 65Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2013
Andrew Murawa filed this report after tonight’s Pac-12 opener between UCLA and California in Westwood.
Three Key Takeaways.
- UCLA Rebounding. The Bruins come away with the win, but the Golden Bears possibly exposed a fatal flaw: UCLA”s rebounding brawn. After something of a draw on the boards in the first half (albeit aided by one Bruin possession in which they grabbed four consecutive offensive rebounds and still came away empty), Cal destroyed UCLA on the glass for about a 10-minute stretch in the middle of the second half. For the entire last stanza they grabbed almost 50% of their own misses, and were it not for Kyle Anderson taking the rebounding load upon his back (he had eight defensive rebounds in the last eight minutes), it could have been much worse for UCLA. While the Wear twins have the size and do a good job getting into position to rebound, they struggle to secure the ball when challenged. Tonight, while David Wear was limited to just 13 minutes, Travis Wear played 35 minutes and grabbed two defensive rebounds (4.9 DR%) and just one offensive rebound (3.2 OR%) despite regularly getting a hand on the ball.
- Bruin Defense. While securing opponents’ missed shots is a massive part of good team defense, the Bruins definitely showed signs of rounding into shape on the defensive end tonight. To be clear, I’m not saying they’re a good defensive team yet, but they are improving. They held Cal, a decent offensive team, to 0.94 points per possession and showed that they’re starting to do some of the little things that need to be done to make themselves better. If opponents are able to get just about any of these guys into isolation situations, the Bruins find themselves in trouble. But they’re doing little things like hedging up on the ball-handler on pick-and-rolls, sending over help defense to staunch penetration, and rotating well on passers, among other things. Ben Howland praised Larry Drew II, Shabazz Muhammad, and particularly Norman Powell for their excellent defensive efforts tonight. Powell earned 15 first half minutes and limited Allen Crabbe to 2-of-9 shooting with three turnovers. Said Howland of Powell: “[His] defense in the first half on Crabbe was critical. His defensive effort was absolutely unbelievable. Norman had one of the best games of his career here and a lot of what he did doesn’t show up in the stats.”
- California Aberrations. For a team with a pair of shooters the quality of Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, it is almost unbelievable that the Golden Bears, for the second straight game, failed to connect on a single three-pointer. In their last two games, they’re 0-of-19 from deep, with Crabbe and Cobbs, a duo who combined to shoot better than 40% from three last year, going 0-for-10. The other whopper in the box score is the fact that the Bears got outscored 23-5 from the line by UCLA. Part of that can be chalked up to the Bruins going to the line repeatedly down the stretch, but that doesn’t change the fact that Cal only earned eight free throw attempts during the entire game. Cobbs and Crabbe are generally adept at getting to the line, but tonight each earned only one free throw attempt. Credit part of that to UCLA’s steadfast refusal to foul as a matter of principal (they were 12th in the nation in defensive free throw rate coming into the game), but if Cobbs is unable to get penetration and draw fouls against a team as defensively questionable as UCLA, that raises some additional question marks.
Star of the Game. Kyle Anderson. Anderson earned the fourth double-double of his young career, and did so by taking it upon himself to present second-chance opportunities for the Golden Bears late. After sitting on the bench and watching his teammates repeatedly fail to secure defensive rebounds, Anderson re-entered and grabbed eight defensive rebounds over the last eight minutes to help secure the win. “There was a point where we were getting out-rebounded and my focus was to go in there and make sure they weren’t getting any second chance opportunities,” he said after the game. Anderson also knocked down all nine of his free throw attempts, including four in the final minute when the Bears were in scramble mode, and he also again earned the praise of his coach for his ball-handling and court vision. “It’s like having two point guards out there,” said Howland. “I can’t say enough about Larry (Drew), and Kyle, I feel very comfortable with the ball in his hands.”
Quotable: Kyle Anderson on how UCLA’s defense is improved: “It all starts with defense. We were able to get some stops and that sort of opened the game up for us. Our help defense, or team defense, has really improved. When somebody gets beat off the ball, somebody else if there to help. If we all buy into the defensive thing, we’re gonna get wins.”
Wildcard. Shabazz in the Clutch. Last time out, it was Muhammad with the late go-ahead three and seven overtime points against Missouri. Tonight, after a lackluster first half (1-of-7, for five points), Muhammad repeatedly made big shots to extinguish Cal runs, while also turning in his most impressive defensive performance of a young career. “Shabazz has really grown defensively” said Howland after the game. “He’s never had to play this hard before. This is a whole new thing he’s being asked to do and he’s really taking the challenge on.” For his part, Muhammad wants to prove his detractors wrong. “I read in the papers that I can’t play defense, but I know I can play defense.”
What’s Next? UCLA stays at home and hosts Stanford early on Saturday with a Noon PT tip on the Pac-12 Networks, while California heads down the road a bit where they’ll try to avoid an 0-2 conference start against suddenly surging USC in the nightcap on Saturday night.