Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor. He filed this report from UCLA’s victory over Georgia on Tuesday night at the Barclays Center. Follow him on Twitter @botskey.
Three thoughts from UCLA’s close call against Georgia…
- UCLA defended better, but it wasn’t a consistent effort. After last night’s poor defensive showing, UCLA looked much the same in the first half. Georgia came out and was able to get multiple easy baskets in the paint. That led to a five-point Bulldogs halftime lead but Ben Howland’s Bruins reversed the trend after the break. UCLA held Georgia to 30% shooting and just 26 points in the second half. Howland mixed in some zone but played predominantly man defense tonight. After the game he admitted his team couldn’t stop Georgia in the man defense, but prefers that defense as opposed to zone. UCLA’s on-ball pressure was improved and they rebounded better after halftime. It was a tale of two halves for the Bruins, but the second half eventually won out and UCLA leaves Brooklyn with a split, something Howland acknowledged was very important. He didn’t want that long plane ride home to LA to be for naught. It’s not the way they wanted it to happen but a split is what most people expected.
- Shabazz had 21 points, but Travis Wear was UCLA’s MVP tonight. Wear posted 10 points and eight rebounds, but it seemed like a lot more. He was everywhere around the rim on both ends of the floor and his rebounding was extremely valuable in the second half when Georgia was missing shots. With his brother David out due to injury, Wear stepped up when others like Josh Smith could only manage four boards. Going up against a strong rebounder in Georgia’s Marcus Thornton is never easy but Wear excelled tonight. Both Wear twins have been described as role players once they transferred from North Carolina but they’re both showing signs of improvement. They will be hugely important players for UCLA because Smith has shown little signs of improvement (or a will to improve) in his time in Westwood.
- Georgia is 1-4, but it should improve. I’m not sure what happened in the Youngstown State and Southern Miss losses but I have a hard time believing Georgia is as bad as its record indicates. The Bulldogs aren’t the 22 to 25-win team Indiana coach Tom Crean talked about last night but I don’t think they’re a terrible basketball team. Georgia has pieces to build around, especially Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Thornton. Mark Fox has a very good track record at Nevada and, while it’ll be hard to move up the SEC ladder, Georgia has the potential to do so. The Bulldogs will see their share of rough losses but don’t expect them to be a total doormat for the SEC like, say, Mississippi State.