Rushed Reactions: UCLA 68, Stanford 60Posted by AMurawa on January 5th, 2013
Andrew Murawa filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s Pac-12 contest between UCLA and Stanford in Pauley Pavilion.
Three Key Takeaways.
- It’s Not Just Offense. While there were moments today when UCLA looked halfway decent on the offensive end for a couple minutes at a time, this was by no means an explosive scoring performance for a Bruins team that has come to be known for its offensive ability. It took more than 10 minutes for somebody in a white jersey without the name Wear on the back to score a bucket. Then there was a stretch of three minutes late where the Bruins turned it over seven times (after previously coughing it up just six times in the first 35 minutes). Follow that up with Jordan Adams missing three straight front-ends of one-and-one opportunities (this for a guy who made his 33 straight FTs earlier in the year and came into the game shooting almost 87%) and it looked like UCLA was doing their best to give this one away. But, when all was said and done, UCLA limited Stanford to just 0.85 points per possession and, on the weekend (albeit against admittedly pedestrian offenses from the Northern California pair) defended to the tune of just 0.89 PPP. As we mentioned Thursday night, this squad is never going to turn into Howland’s 2007 defensive juggernaut, but this team is improving on an almost game-by-game basis.
- Stanford Rotation. Two nights ago, in a loss at USC, the five Stanford players who Johnny Dawkins brought off the bench actually played 51% of the team’s minutes, with Chasson Randle earning just 15 ineffective minutes and Dwight Powell getting just 23 foul-plagued minutes. That game actually marked the third straight game where Dawkins has used the same starting lineup, but this afternoon against UCLA, two of those guys were pulled for replacement. This has been an ongoing issue all year long as Dawkins has played 13 different guys this year (although Anthony Brown is out for the season now), with 12 guys having earned at least 20% of the team’s minutes and only two (Randle and Josh Huestis) earning better than 70% of the minutes. There have been six different starting lineups this year in just 15 games after he fielded 15 different starting lineups last season. Last year’s run to the NIT title was highlighted by fantastic performances by Randle and Bright, as the backcourt duo, who showed great chemistry together, averaged just shy of 60 minutes per game between them. This year, those guys have seen their minutes jerked around, and while admittedly neither has been great when in the game, Dawkins needs to give these guys some semblance of stability so that players can be more comfortable in their roles and build a rapport with their teammates. After the game on Thursday night, some of the UCLA players talked about how with a couple of player defections, the fact that they’re running a seven-man rotation has allowed everybody to get comfortable with their teammates, and roles and into a flow. Dawkins should take some notes. And, give him some credit as today he trimmed his rotation, playing just nine guys and giving all five of his starters at least 27 minutes. Concern about Bright, who earned just 14 minutes and was largely invisible in them (one three-pointer, one assist, one turnover) should persist.
- UCLA Rebounding. While the Bruins’ man defense has made great strides, there is still one significant weakness that is limiting its effectiveness: defensive rebounding. In the last three games, UCLA has grabbed just 61.2% of defensive rebound opportunities. And just this weekend alone, those second chance opportunities translated into an additional 32 points for their opponents. In other words, on first-shot defense, UCLA allowed just 0.66 points per possession. Today Muhammad and Kyle Anderson did their jobs, grabbing nearly 50% of Stanford’s misses in their time on the floor, but again the Wears were of little help, grabbing just four defensive rebounds between them in 50 minutes of action to make that eight defensive rebounds in 98 minutes this weekend. While the Wears have been good scoring the ball in recent games, they need to do more dirty work in order for UCLA to improve. Where once the glaring defensive weakness for the Bruins was their inability to stop dribble penetration, it is now clearly defensive rebounding.
Star of the Game. Shabazz Muhammad. After Muhammad grabbed just one rebound in UCLA’s big win against Missouri last weekend, Howland went out of his way to call out his young freshman on that front. Thursday night against California, he was somewhat better in grabbing six boards, but it was up to classmate Kyle Anderson to really staunch the bleeding as the Golden Bears took advantage of UCLA on the glass. Today, Muhammad was as aggressive on the glass as he has ever been in his short UCLA career, grabbing 10 boards, three on the offensive end, for his second double-double in his UCLA career. Scoring-wise, Muhammad was as good as ever, rebounding from a quiet first half to score seven of his team’s first nine second-half points. And then, as UCLA seemed to be in the process of choking the game away late by missing four straight free throws (including one by Muhammad himself), he calmly proceeded to knock down five straight from the charity stripe to seal the win.
Sights and Sounds. Dissed. Jordan Adams is forever unwilling to so much as acknowledge opponents prior to the opening tip. Repeatedly this year as the two teams have come out for the opening tip, Adams has given the cold shoulder to players offering up pregame hand slaps. He’s done it to Phil Pressey and Allen Crabbe in recent games, and today it was Chasson Randle who got dissed.
Quotable: Ben Howland, responding to a question about an “ugly” win: “Any win is beautiful.”
Wildcard. Adams Energy. Adams is most recognized for his ability to pour in buckets in a hurry, but an underlooked side to his game is the constant energy he brings, whether running the floor in search of scoring opportunities, or finding a way to poke away or jump on loose balls. Today, that netted him seven steals and for the year he is coming up with a steal on better than three percent of all opponents’ possessions. At times, those steals come as a result of Adams cheating defensively and winding up out of position if he misses the chance, but he’s proven time and time again his ability to force a steal and create transition opportunities for his team.
Wildcard (OT). Give and Take. It took more than an hour following the game for the Stanford team to emerge from its locker room. Dawkins acknowledged that there was a hearty discussion between all parties in the aftermath of the loss. “It was all designed to help us get better. It was more of a team thing where we just wanted to talk about how can we get better. What are some things that we can do to improve. That’s basically what the whole conversation was about. Because we had interaction with everyone, that’s why it took a long time. It wasn’t just me. It was coming from all of us, a total team thing.”
What’s Next? Stanford opens its Pac-12 home schedule by hosting the Washington schools, beginning with Washington State on Wednesday night. UCLA heads away from home for the first time in more than a month when they make their swing through the Rockies, with Utah starting things off Thursday night.