Rushed Reactions: #11 Minnesota 83, #6 UCLA 63

Posted by WCarey on March 22nd, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #6 UCLA and #11 Minnesota in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

Did Ben Howland Coach His Last Game in Westwood?

Did Ben Howland Coach His Last Game in Westwood?

  1. Minnesota’s effort was outstanding. For a team that was woefully inconsistent in the regular season, the Golden Gophers put together a very strong performance in its victory over UCLA. In last week’s loss to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament, Minnesota only managed to score 49 points and looked horrible on offense for almost the entire game. Friday night was a completely different story for the Golden Gophers as they took advantage of a very poor UCLA defense and exploded for 83 points. Minnesota got a ton of good looks throughout the game, which is evident by its 50% shooting mark from the field and its 60% mark from three. UCLA was not exactly top-notch competition, but the Minnesota team that won Friday night looked much more like the Minnesota team that had beat Michigan State and Indiana than the Minnesota team that put up 49 points against Illinois last weekend.
  2. UCLA played like it wanted its season to end. When Jordan Adams went down with a broken foot in the Pac-12 Tournament, it was huge blow to the Bruins. Many national pundits believed UCLA would struggle against Minnesota without Adams, as he was the team’s best defender all season. There is no way the pundits thought that the Bruins would struggle as bad as they did in the blowout loss. Minnesota came into the game averaging 68.4 points per game on the season and it scored 83 against the Bruins. Minnesota came into the game shooting 44.2% from the field on the season, it shot 50% against the Bruins. Tubby Smith‘s squad was able to reach these figures due to the countless open looks that were afforded them by the UCLA defense. Golden Gophers guard Andre Hollins finished with 28 points and was 5-of-8 from deep. UCLA did not make a single adjustment when Hollins started to get hot. There were also several instances of where Minnesota big men Trevor Mbakwe and Elliott Eliason just outworked the Bruins’ interior players to grab offensive boards to help their team retain possession. UCLA’s offense was also horrible, as it shot just 31.7% from the field including a ghastly 18.2% from three. While it is understandable that teams do have poor shooting night, what was so dumbfounding about UCLA’s is that it continued to take horrible shots on bad looks until the final buzzer. The Bruins played like they did not want to be in the NCAA Tournament and it showed on both ends of the court in their pathetic loss to Minnesota.
  3. It might be time for a coaching change in Westwood. While the Bruins did finish 25-10 and win the outright regular season Pac-12 title, with the riches of talent the team has possessed over the years, the team just has not won enough. UCLA has missed the tournament in two of the last four seasons and only has two tournament wins since 2008. Considering that Steve Lavin was let go by UCLA after making the tournament in six of his seven seasons in Westwood and taking the Bruins to five Sweet 16s, it should be to the surprise of no one if UCLA decides to make a coaching change after this flameout against Minnesota. Another thing that works against Howland is that according to a Chris Foster story in Tuesday’s Los Angeles Times, “he had received no indication from his bosses about his status or what his team had to accomplish for him to stay on the job.”

Star of the Game. Andre Hollins, Minnesota. The sophomore guard put forth quite the offensive performance for the Golden Gophers. He tallied 28 points on 8-of-16 from the field and knocked back 5-of-8 from deep. Hollins was Minnesota’s go-to guy all night and he responded with a very good offensive performance. If Minnesota wants any chance at beating Florida on Sunday, it is going to need a similar performance from Hollins.

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Pac-12 M5: 03.05.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 5th, 2013

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  1. Championship Week Fortnight begins today, and the Pac-12 Tournament is right around the corner as well. This year’s tournament promises to be one of the more crazy ones in history, as any team seeded one through nine has the talent and potential to take the conference’s automatic bid. Washington is going to need that aut0-bid in order to go dancing, and rising fifth-year senior Scott Suggs looks to be an integral part of that run. The shooting guard had a streak going in February in which he only scored four points per game for four out of five games, but starting back on February 23 against Arizona State, Suggs found his stroke and no longer appeared lost within the Husky offense. He went for 16 points against the Sun Devils and for 23 points eight days later in the hardwood Apple Cup. If he can continue this kind of output through the next two weeks, the combination of he and C.J. Wilcox will make the eighth-seeded Dawgs a tough out.
  2. As we teased yesterday, Oregon State and Nike unveiled the results of a nearly two-year long re-branding of the Beaver program. The changes to the basketball uniforms were positive but minimal, as you can see here. The Beavers now have an all-white uniform in their repertoire and have the option of having “OSU” across the front of the jersey. The shorts are simple and clean-looking, with the new logo featured on the bottom side. The back of the tops are what I think is the highlight of the whole thing, as a basketball net and “ghost beaver” logo run from top-to-bottom. Even outside of basketball, a general change for all sports uniforms is the addition of metallic bronze as an accent color. The football uniforms were the highlight of the event, and I’ll leave you with those pictures here.
  3. Even if Arizona did not find a true point guard, the addition of Mark Lyons was a good one, and the right idea at the time by Arizona head coach Sean Miller. The Wildcats are in desperate need of a true point who can break down a defense and be a “pass-first, shoot-second” type of player, but that’s just not going to work with Lyons. So, UA fans will take what they can get at this point in the season. Right now, that’s a team full of shooters, and if that’s what can take them to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond, so be it.
  4. California is 9-1 since it was thoroughly outplayed on a late January afternoon in Boulder. At that point in the season, the Golden Bears were playing with no heart or hustle, sported a middling 11-8 record, and were on the outside looking in for an NIT bid. But there has been a remarkable turnaround, one that will likely result in Cal’s second straight NCAA bid, as Mike Montgomery has done some of his finest work as a head coach to get them to this point. California closes out the regular season with a visit from rival Stanford on Wednesday night, where the Bears will go for their eighth straight victory.
  5. UCLA may not need a Pac-12 Tournament championship to make the NCAA Tournament, but like Washington, the Bruins could use a big boost from junior forward Travis Wear in the coming weeks. Wear is still plagued by a right foot injury that sidelined him for two games stretching back to February 24, and coach Ben Howland is having to make up for his absences on the floor by playing brother David Wear for nearly the whole contest, or placing rarely-used Tony Parker in the game when Wear needs rest. The return of Travis Wear in a full capacity will be crucial for the Bruins, as it would be nearly impossible to win three games in three days without his big body on the court.
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Marching to Vegas: This Is Our Game of the Year?

Posted by AMurawa on March 2nd, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

Early on we dubbed this thing the Game of the Year. It was the conference’s two most storied programs set to square off on ESPN in the season’s waning moments with what was presumed to be title implications and a possible top NCAA seed on the line. It was UCLA. It was Arizona. Muhammad. Lyons. Anderson. Hill. With all the perspective of zero games played, this had “Game Of” written all over it; after all it was the necessary return to glory for the Conference of Champions perhaps still reeling from last season’s abomination. Well now it’s here and it sure doesn’t seem that sexy. One team will host with an underwhelming albeit sound 21-7 record wearing a home loss to Cal Poly amidst ambiguous rumblings surrounding the future of their head man. The other enters Pauley with lauded victories from what seems a season past but with just one win over a top-five Pac-12 team while looking the part of effortless softies. No, the aforementioned would not suggest this is anyone’s Game of the Year and certainly not as the producers of the game have hyper-hyped their prime-er time game featuring Duke and Miami.

When Arizona and UCLA Meet On The Hardwood, Pac-12 Basketball Fans Watch

When Arizona and UCLA Meet On The Hardwood, Pac-12 Basketball Fans Watch

This is an improved year by way of Pac-12 product but hasn’t quite lived up to its moderate hype. The conference held its first game featuring ranked opponents (#21 Oregon @ #24 UCLA, 1/19) since March 2009; but that cannot be the barometer by which we measure the conference’s success. It’s in fact a touch embarrassing and we should probably not mention it again, like walking into the women’s restroom. The collective RPI has hovered in the #6 range throughout the year which isn’t great but it’s certainly an improvement. Last year the conference sat in ninth, easily last amongst the power conferences. I mean, the conference champion wasn’t invited to the NCAA Tournament, do I really need to demonstrate that last year was bad again?

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UCLA Gets Production From Reserve Bigs in Absence of Travis Wear

Posted by AMurawa on February 25th, 2013

On Saturday night, news leaked out of Los Angeles that junior forward Travis Wear, UCLA’s most-used and most-capable post player, had injured a foot and would likely miss Sunday’s game with USC. When he walked out onto the court in street clothes and a walking boot just prior to the game, Bruins’ fans worst fears were confirmed, leaving a squad that was already significantly short-handed in the frontcourt having to rely on just two players – Travis’ twin David Wear and little-used freshman center Tony Parker – to man the post against a Trojan team that features two seven-footers earning regular time.

In The Wake Of Travis Wear's Foot Injury, Tony Parker Played A Big Role On Sunday (Mark J. Terrill, AP Photo)

In The Wake Of Travis Wear’s Foot Injury, Tony Parker Played A Big Role On Sunday (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

But the duo of the other Wear and Parker quickly put those concerns to rest with good production right out of the gates. In the first four minutes of play, David Wear scored four points, grabbed three boards and dished out an inside-out assist while playing with great energy on both ends of the floor. When Tony Parker made his debut, he went straight to work as well, scoring four points in his first four minutes as UCLA point guards Larry Drew II and Kyle Anderson repeatedly looked for him on screen-and-roll opportunities. All told, the duo combined for 18 points and 14 rebounds in a combined 50 minutes of action as the Bruins rolled over their cross-town rival. With Travis Wear currently considered day-to-day and with a couple of very big games coming up this week against the Arizona schools, the Bruins may have to face time with Parker and Wear as the sole bigs. But their performances in the game on Sunday had to have given head coach Ben Howland and UCLA fans confidence that their thinner frontcourt could hold up under pressure.

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Pac-12 M5: 02.25.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 25th, 2013

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  1. Last week saw Washington State lose a dramatic game when an underclassman made a poor decision in the waning moments of the game. This week, Oregon State lost a tight one in part due to a poor decision made by an underclassmen in pregame warm-ups. You see, there’s this fairly ridiculous rule that makes dunking in the layup line prior to the game worthy of earning a technical foul against your team. Beavers freshman Olaf Schaftenaar, a guy well-known for his wide variety of aerial acrobatics (note to editors: please use the sarcasm font for that phrase), just couldn’t help himself and threw one down prior to the game. The refs caught the egregious act, penalized OSU with a technical foul, Allen Crabbe knocked down one of two free throws prior to the game, and the Beavers went on to, you know, lose by one. For a Beavers team that Ken Pomeroy currently has ranked as the third-least lucky team in the nation, Saturday’s bad luck reached ridiculous new lows.
  2. Arizona scored a couple of wins this weekend. First, on Saturday they coasted to victory over Washington State behind terrific shooting from senior Kevin Parrom, although head coach Sean Miller wasn’t entirely thrilled with his team’s effort. Then, on Sunday, Miller got a commitment from five-star recruit in the 2014 class, 5’7” point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright. The recruiting coup is not only a big score for what it brings to Tucson, it is also big because the Wildcats beat out Pac-12 rival UCLA for the Los Angeles-area product. Jackson-Cartwright will first play in the 2014-15 season at the same time that Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell plays his senior season in Tucson.
  3. Speaking of UCLA, junior forward Travis Wear missed Sunday afternoon’s battle with USC after spraining his right foot at the start of practice on Saturday. His brother David Wear got the start in place of him, while freshman Tony Parker saw a big increase in minutes and production as a result as well. Travis wore a walking boot on the foot during the game but was ambulatory without crutches and Ben Howland said after the game that he is considered day-to-day. Unfortunately, if the Bruins are going to get him back for their next game, he’ll have to be a quick healer, as they’ll host Arizona State in Westwood on Wednesday night.
  4. For some time now Arizona State has been right on the anticipated border between NCAA Tournament team and NIT participant, but the consensus was that the Sun Devils needed to finish strong in order to maintain that positioning. While they’ve still got cracks on the road at UCLA and Arizona, Saturday’s home loss to Washington may leave Herb Sendek’s team needing to win the Pac-12 Tournament in order to earn an NCAA Tournament bid. Freshman point guard Jahii Carson turned in one of his worst games of his young career, senior Carrick Felix was largely – and surprisingly – ineffective in his senior night, and once again, the poor free throw shooting from the Sun Devils helped conspire to leave them on the wrong side of the ledger at the final horn.
  5. The race for the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award is well under way, with Arizona State’s Carrick Felix and Colorado’s Andre Roberson near the top of the list of contenders. Buffaloes head coach Tad Boyle has begun making the case for his guy, by not only listing him as the top defender in the conference, but calling him the best defender in the nation. With guys like Aaron Craft, Victor Oladipo, Russ Smith and Jeff Withey already established and well-recognized as great defenders, there is little doubt that Roberson would fail to medal on the national stage, but in the Pac-12, his rebounding and his ability to guard multiple positions and make insanely athletic plays certainly has him on the short list for the conference award.
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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume IV

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2013

Another week of classes, another week of grades from Professor Pac. As midterms approach, only Oregon is on pace for a A this semester.

Arizona State – A

Way back in June, Herb Sendek was talking about how his new Sun Devil team was going to get out and run and be as uptempo as anybody in the Pac-12. But, since getting run off the court by an athletic DePaul team back in early December, Arizona State had gone eight straight games without getting 70 possessions in a ball game. This past week when they hosted USC and UCLA and came away 2-0, they went over 70 possessions in both games and averaged 76 possessions – and 88 points – for the week. Sure, the USC game was aided by an extra five minutes of play, but the Sun Devils still played with more pace this past week than they have done in some time.

Focus on: Jonathan Gilling. We’ve talked a ton about Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski, we’ve touched on Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon on a regular basis, but Gilling is the fifth member of the starting unit, and criminally underrated. While his shooting percentages have dipped compared with his freshman campaign, Gilling is doing everything else better this season. He’s turned into an exceedingly effective rebounder and an underrated passer. He’s one of just two players in the conference to average seven rebounds and three assists per game (the other is Kyle Anderson) and as you could see by this week’s performance when he has 14 dimes, he finds exceedingly good looks for his teammates. Of those 14 assists, eight led to either layups or dunks, while four more ended in threes. And he’s an equal-opportunity distributor; Felix, Bachynski, and Gordon were each on the receiving end of four of Gilling’s assists.

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils are the toast of the conference this week, but with a road trip up north to the Washington schools ahead, things can go south in a hurry. The Cougars and Huskies may not be the most intimidating opponents, but they’re more than capable of knocking off the Sun Devils.

Colorado – A

Don’t look now, but after an extended hangover effect following the debacle in the desert, the Buffaloes have won three straight by an average of 13 points and are back to .500 in the conference. And while the offense has been steadily improving, they’ve been doing it with defense. They’ve held their three opponents in that win streak to a 40.5 eFG%.

Focus on: Xavier Johnson. Doomed to play roughly the same position as the nation’s leading rebounder, Andre Roberson, Johnson has been lurking in the shadows somewhat most of the year. But on Sunday, when Roberson was limited to just two first half minutes due to foul trouble, Johnson had his breakout game, notching his first double-double of his career and scoring 18 points on just ten field goal attempts. In fact, over the course of this Buff winning streak, Johnson has been a major contributor. He’s scored in double figures in every game and has been hyper-efficient; he’s averaging 14.3 points per game and shooting a 74 eFG%.

Looking ahead: The Buffs have a short week, with only a trip to Salt Lake City to face a Utah team coming off its worst performance of the season. If the Buffs don’t have a four-game win streak at this point next week, they may be the recipient of the year’s first F.

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Marching to Vegas: UCLA Outwills Arizona In Tucson

Posted by AMurawa on January 25th, 2013

From the moment it was first rumored, the relocation of the conference tournament to Las Vegas has created quite a buzz among Pac-12 basketball fans. Adam Butler (@pachoopsAB) of PacHoops will be here every week as he offers his unique perspective along our March to Vegas.

When a bell is rung, the door is to be answered. Whatever that means, UCLA responded to every single effort Arizona had in response to the Bruins’ shellacking. From the opening tip, Ben Howland’s team played as if they knew they were there to win. And then they did. Because sometimes winning is about as simple as knowing you will. Leading into such a bout, certainly from an Arizona fan’s perspective, the buzz wasn’t quite there. UCLA appeared to be a middling program with little to look forward to on the heels of a home loss. That is not how they presented themselves in Tucson.

Jordan Adams And Shabazz Muhammad Were More Than Ready For Thursday Night's Game (Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today Sports)

Jordan Adams And Shabazz Muhammad Were More Than Ready For Thursday Night’s Game (Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today Sports)

While Arizona’s season will not be defined by this game, it may serve as the contrarian point to any forthcoming ego inflation allotted by a winning streak. The Wildcats, despite Thursday’s effort, are still a good team. They have room for improvement and will, if they want to fulfill the hype, do such. But to dwell on Arizona and its effort or lack thereof, would be a disservice to UCLA, Howland, and the work they collectively did. Shabazz Muhammad, earlier this week, said he would take it upon himself to win this game. You know what he subsequently did? He won that game with 23 points on 50% shooting. That’s what one does when they take victory upon themselves. When winning is not self-mandated? Your effort looks something in the realm of 6-of-17, zero assists, and five turnovers. That was Mark Lyons’ night, which was his worst as a Wildcat. Bigger picture, 10 assists in comparison to 14 turnovers as a team is not indicative of a group looking to collectively beat an opponent.

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Three Thoughts on the UCLA-Arizona Game From Last Night

Posted by AMurawa on January 25th, 2013

UCLA showed a resolve in Tucson last night that not many could have foreseen from this squad a month ago. Here are three thoughts about the outcome, with the Bruins beating Arizona going away to take over sole possession of second place in the Pac-12.

  1. Thirty-three minutes, five turnovers, zero assists and a 41.2% eFG. There’s your point guard, Arizona fans. I’m not for a minute going to suggest that Mark Lyons was solely responsible for the Wildcats’ 11-point loss at home against UCLA – there’s more than enough blame to go around, beginning with the coaching staff and heading on down the line – but the events of Thursday night showcase in a microcosm the concerns that people have had about Lyons as the lead guard of a team with national championship hopes. Sure, he’s been nails down the stretch in more than a couple games this year (games where, perhaps not coincidentally, he again had more turnovers than assists), but time and again down the court last night, the Arizona offense was unfocused and undisciplined. They’ve got enough playmakers to keep things interesting against quality teams even in the absence of coherent point guard play, but for this team to max out its potential, Lyons either needs to improve his ability to create offense for the Wildcats, or Sean Miller needs to explore using either Solomon Hill or Nick Johnson to more regularly initiate the sets.

    While Mark Lyons Has Been Huge In Late-Game Scenarios For Arizona This Year, He Was A Liability Last Night (Jerry Pillarelli)

    While Mark Lyons Has Been Huge In Late-Game Scenarios For Arizona This Year, He Was A Liability Last Night (Jerry Pillarelli)

  2. Repeatedly this season, when Ben Howland has been asked such things as “Why did Tony Parker only get three minutes tonight?” or “Are there any plans to get Parker more minutes?”, he has responded by saying that, to paraphrase, “there will come a game or two this season when, whether due to injury or to foul trouble, we’ll need Parker to give us some quality minutes off the bench.” Exhibit A came last night when, due to concussion-like symptoms exhibited by Travis Wear after taking an unintentional hit to the head in the first half, Parker earned the most minutes he’s had since the Prairie View A&M game in mid-December. He responded as Howland hoped he would, providing 10 rock-solid minutes, scoring six points, grabbing three boards, blocking a shot, playing good post defense and even knocking down some clutch free throws and an interesting fall-away jumper. While saying that UCLA would not have won without Parker is taking it too far, that game would certainly have been much tighter down the stretch in his absence. The freshman has most certainly earned enough trust from his coach to see a bit of a bump in minutes going forward. While on the topic, give credit to David Wear for stepping in for his fallen brother and scrapping his way to his best game of the year. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume II

Posted by AMurawa on January 16th, 2013

Professor Pac is back to break down and evaluate each team’s performances in the past week. With three pet pupils atop the leaderboard still without a loss, it’s no surprise who is earning the As thus far.

Washington – A

After winning a conference road game over an intrastate rival last week, the Huskies decided to one-up themselves this week, taking down two more road games, this time over slightly more significant competition, to begin the season with a surprising three-game road winning streak.

Focus on: Andrew Andrews. The stats this week weren’t anywhere near mind-blowing for the redshirt freshman (9 PPG, 4 RPG, 0.5 APG), but he brings an energy and athleticism to a Husky backcourt that definitely needed it. Offensively, he is a threat to get to the paint and create opportunities on any possession, and on defense, as his four steals against Stanford on Saturday showed, he is capable of wreaking havoc on the opposition. He’s still green, but look for his role to continue to expand this season.

Looking ahead: For a team with a history of struggling on the road, the Huskies have taken care of business there in recent weeks. Now they have to prove they can win at home, something they have failed to do three separate times in the non-conference schedule. Colorado is the first test tonight with Utah visiting on Sunday.

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Andrew Andrews Has Been Providing A Spark Off The Bench For The Huskies (Elaine Thompson, AP Photo)

Oregon – A

If you wanted to pick one weakness on this Ducks team, it might be the lack of a proven go-to scorer at this point. This week, for instance, in each of their two home wins over the Arizona schools, four of the five starters scored in double figures, with nobody scoring more than 14 points. In fact, only four times all season has a Duck scored 20 or more (Damyean Dotson twice, Arsalan Kazemi once, and E.J. Singler once). I’m not one who thinks this is always necessarily a problem – if you have plenty of good offensive options and you wind up with balanced scoring that way, it certainly keeps the defense guessing – but I think in the Ducks’ case, they have a bunch of good players, none of whom are completely polished offensive options. And against Arizona down the stretch, the possibility of that being a problem raised its head. Part of it has to do with the decision to milk the clock way too early, but at some point they probably need somebody (the best candidate is Dotson) to become the go-to guy down the stretch.

Focus on: E.J. Singler. The senior had a great all-around game in the win over Arizona, going for 14 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals, while knocking down some key free throws late, but then once again disappeared for the most part against Arizona State, hitting just one of nine field goal attempts and grabbing only one board in 36 minutes of play. That’s been the M.O. for the most part this season for a guy expected to be an all-conference caliber guy: inconsistency.

Looking ahead: The Ducks leave the state of Oregon for the first time in almost a month and just the third game all year when they head down Los Angeles way. They will be the opponent for Bob Cantu’s debut with USC tomorrow night before headlining the Pac-12 schedule on Saturday with a visit to Pauley Pavilion and UCLA for the first conference match-up between Top 25 teams since 2009.

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 79, California 65

Posted by AMurawa on January 4th, 2013

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa filed this report after tonight’s Pac-12 opener between UCLA and California in Westwood.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. 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.

    With The Bruins Struggling On The Glass, Kyle Anderson Got To Work Rebounding (US Presswire)

    With The Bruins Struggling On The Glass, Kyle Anderson Got To Work Rebounding (US Presswire)

  1. 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.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 97, #9 Missouri 94 (OT)

Posted by AMurawa on December 29th, 2012

rushedreactions

It was one of the more thrilling games of the young season, an up-and-down affair featuring great individual performances, scoring in bunches, and little of that pesky defense that can serve just to ugly things up. No, this was a track meet, a sprint. And one that needed some extra distance to decide a winner.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. This is What The Buzz Was About. We spent much of the offseason hearing about how great this UCLA recruiting class was and just how high the ceiling was for this team, but for much of the first month and a half of the season, the Bruins just didn’t live up to the hype. But quietly over the last couple weeks, UCLA has gotten on an offensive roll, racking up efficient offensive performances against questionable competition. Leading the way has been Shabazz Muhammad, one of the top two recruits in this year’s freshman class, depending on whom you ask. Tonight was his, and really, the entire UCLA team’s chance to show the strides that they have made. Muhammad poured in 27 points, including seven of UCLA’s nine points in overtime, and flashed the athleticism and killer instinct that was long rumored about him. While there is still plenty of room for improvement (case in point, he grabbed just one rebound in 34 minutes of play), we’re starting to see what we expected to see. And in proximity to the rumors that had been swirling about Ben Howland’s job being in jeopardy, this win may have come at just the right time.
  2. Phil Pressey. He Good. Phil Pressey, on the other hand, was a guy who had been largely living up to the high standards that he had previously set for himself. Tonight, he found himself facing a team with an up-tempo, minimal defense in which he can thrive. And thrive he did, wowing Tiger and Bruin fans alike to the tune of 19 points and 19 assists, setting a Missouri record for dimes in a game. The assists are the big story, and they came in a variety of ways: whip-aheads on the fast break; drive-and-dish jobs creating easy looks for big guys like Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers; and crisp passes to spot-up shooters for threes. And when he wasn’t handing out assists, he was creating for himself. He knocked down a late three (one of three on the night) in the face of Larry Drew II, he got into the lane and flipped in runners, and he knocked down pull-up jumpers. Just looking at the 8-for-22 effort in the box score could give one pause, but he was everything for the Tigers, accounting for 67 of their 94 points on just his shots and assists alone.
  3. Defense? What Defense? Much of the talk during the game on Twitter was about the lack of defense being played. And, yeah, there is little arguing that this was not exactly a fine example of defensive basketball. When all was said and done, the two teams combined to give up 1.18 points per possession. But you know what? At least for UCLA, that’s something to be okay with — at least there were signs of improvement. While they allowed far too much dribble penetration, at least it was to a point guard the quality of Pressey. And UCLA forced 17 turnovers (five from Pressey) which led to 36 points, quite possibly the difference in the game. At no point is this UCLA team going to be a shining example of Howland’s great defensive coaching, but if the Bruins can bolster its already potent offense by forcing turnovers and creating fast break opportunities, at least that can help to mitigate some of the easy points they give up.

Stars of the GameThe Wear Twins. Yeah, this should probably go to Pressey. Or maybe if you really want to hand it out to a player on the winning team, Muhammad. But I’ve already talked plenty about those two. How about the Wear twins though? Though they are a pair much maligned by large fan bases on both coasts, they were both excellent tonight. Travis Wear set a new career high, knocking in 22 points, grabbing nine boards and swatting a couple of shots. His brother, despite some early foul trouble, made all seven of the shots he attempted from the field on his way to 16 points and six boards. And, while a guy like Alex Oriakhi will get more attention as the big athletic dude in the middle, the Wears outplayed him, frustrated him, and, frankly, out-toughed him. Now there’s a sentiment I never thought I’d have. And, finally, with the game on the line, it was not Muhammad, it was not Jordan Adams (who was on the bench with leg cramps after being the guy called on at the end of regulation), it was not Kyle Anderson to whom the Bruins turned in the final moments of overtime. It was Travis Wear, who responded with a nice turnaround jumper to put UCLA up three with 13 seconds remaining.

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Rushed Reactions: UCLA 89, Long Beach State 70

Posted by AMurawa on December 19th, 2012

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Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent and a Pac-12 Microsite writer. He filed this report after tonight’s UCLA-Long Beach State game in Westwood.

Three Key Takeaways.

Ben Howland Called Larry Drew II's Performance Tuesday Night The Best Of the Season (Alexa Smahl, Daily Bruin)

Ben Howland Called Larry Drew II’s Performance Tuesday Night The Best Of the Season (Alexa Smahl, Daily Bruin)

  1. Defensive Woes. Offensively, UCLA had a lot to be happy with. Defensively, not so much. While there were stretches of defensive intensity (mostly midway through the second half), the effort wasn’t sustained throughout the game. There were the typical things like not fighting through screens, failing to box out and being late on rotations at times, but the perimeter defense was by and large solid. The most glaring issue was along the front line. Where UCLA’s frontcourt was once considered a possible strength, tonight the Wear twins were owned by Dan Jennings on the block time and again, rarely putting up much of a fight against his power moves. The only possible hope for reinforcements up front would be if Tony Parker were to earn some minutes, but tonight, after playing 18 minutes on Saturday, he only played two minutes with the game in doubt before three minutes worth of mop-up duty.
  2. Dropping Dimes. Larry Drew II continued his excellent play at the point for the Bruins, as his redemption tour continues. Aside from a pretty brutal game against Texas, Drew has been excellent running the offense this year. With another nine assists tonight, he’s leading the Pac-12 with 8.4 assists per game. But Drew’s game tonight was complete: He knocked down open jumpers (6-of-7 from the field with a couple threes), he grabbed four defensive boards, he only turned the ball over once, and he earned the praise of his coach for his defensive effort.
  3. Comparing UCLA to LBSU’s Other Opponents. Long Beach State has played four other big time opponents this year: North Carolina, Arizona, Syracuse and Ohio State – all currently ranked in Ken Pomeroy’s top 20. Against those teams, LBSU has not been a good team offensively, averaging just 0.83 points per possession; against UCLA, however, the 49ers scored 1.09 PPP. The good news for UCLA is that those elite teams scored an average of 1.18 points per possession themselves, but UCLA scored 1.39 PPP. Take those numbers for what they’re worth – which probably is not much given the small sample size.

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