Three Thoughts on UCLA’s Win Over Colorado

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 14th, 2014

Here are three thoughts from UCLA’s convincing win last night over Colorado at Pauley Pavilion.

  1. Kyle Anderson’s 22 points, 11 assists and seven boards; Bryce Alford’s second-half explosion behind a perfect four-of-four from deep; Jordan Adams and Norman Powell out-physicalling Colorado defenders around the paint on the way to a combined 27 points, ten boards, eight assists and five steals: these were the flashy performances, the things that probably caught the most eyeballs. Did anyone ever realize any UCLA frontcourt players showed up to this game? Did anyone notice the Wear twins and Tony Parker combine for 26 points and 14 boards (not to mention four blocks)? Did anyone realize that between the three of them, they made 12 of their 14 field goal attempts and knocked in a couple of threes on the way to a 92.9 eFG%? Well, they did. And with guys like Anderson and Adams and Powell being highly consistent offensive performers around the perimeter and with Alford and fellow freshman Zach LaVine capable of offensive explosions on a regular basis, if the Bruins can get that type of performance from their frontcourt in any way, they are going to be awful hard to beat. How hard? Let’s put it this way: UCLA has not lost a game this season when the trio of the Wears and Parker have combined for at least either 21 points or 13 rebounds. That’s not a high bar to meet. You figure the UCLA wings and guards are going to get theirs; if Steve Alford can continue to just cobble together a solid combined performance out of his trio of bigs, this team is a serious sleeper come March.

    Kyle Anderson's Impact Is Flashier, But The UCLA Frontcourt May Be As Important For thei Team's Long-Term Hopes

    Kyle Anderson’s Impact Is Flashier, But The UCLA Frontcourt May Be As Important For thei Team’s Long-Term Hopes

  2. Kyle Anderson has gotten, and deserved, a lot of press this season for his versatile game. You know about his great passing ability (he hands out assists on better than 35% of his teammates buckets when he’s on the court). You know he’s a floor general for a flashy offensive team. You may not realize he’s shooting 52.4% from three on the year, but you probably have recognized that his perimeter jumper is vastly improved. You know he uses his 6’9” frame and long arms to rebound at high rates on both ends of the court; in fact he’s particularly good on the defensive end (his 24.5 DR% is in the top 50 in the nation). But that last point, his defensive rebounding, really only barely begins to scratch the surface of what he’s doing on the defensive end. The scouting report on Anderson has long been that he’s an amazing offensive talent, but that he can’t guard. And sure, if you try to make him check Jahii Carson or Chasson Randle, he’s going to struggle with their quickness over the course of a game. But given that he is regularly checking the opponent’s forwards, he’s actually turned into a really good defender. Thursday night, he was on Colorado’s Xavier Johnson for the bulk of his 36 minutes of action. In the first half, Johnson was largely absent on his way to four points. Then in the second half, Johnson’s back-to-back buckets on either side of the under-eight media timeout came when Anderson was getting a blow. Anderson used his length and growing stretch to deny Johnson the ball repeatedly. And then when he did get the ball, he used that length to bother Johnson into either bad shots or giving the ball back up. While Anderson is certainly not the type of defender than can guard the smaller and quicker point guards, that needn’t be held as a strike against him, as he is solid enough when he gets switched onto those guys on occasion and if above-average when defending a three or a less physical four. Read the rest of this entry »
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Three Thoughts on UCLA’s Win Over California

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 27th, 2014

UCLA hosted California on Sunday night in a match-up of what clearly looks like the second and third-best teams in the Pac-12. UCLA ran out to a big lead, eased up, and then let the Golden Bears back into the game when freshman Jabari Bird got hot. The Bruins were able to turn the energy back on to finish off the game, but we learned several important things that will be important to remember going forward in the Pac-12 race.

Kyle Anderson Is Exceeding Already High Expectations at UCLA (Scott Chandler, UCLA Athletics)

Kyle Anderson Is Exceeding Already High Expectations at UCLA (Scott Chandler, UCLA Athletics)

  1. Kyle Anderson is very good. At some point, writing this will become tiresome and repetitive; but it isn’t yet. Slo-Mo is the Bruins’ best player and – despite all the Zach LaVine hype – its best NBA prospect. He’s got great court vision and a tremendous feel for the game – we knew that. At 6’9”, he’s big and long and causes a lot of match-up problems – yup, knew that too. But his ability to get to rebounds and forcefully collect them (his defensive rebounding percentage is 30th in the nation! For a point guard!); his tendency to lull defenders to sleep with his deliberate style and then glide by them with his long gait on the way to the hoop; his lean-back jumper that uses his long frame to easily shoot over smaller defenders; his ever-improving three-point shot (he’s shooting 52.9 percent from deep this year, for crying out loud!); and his apparent and evolving command of the leadership necessities that go along with being a point guard. Goodness gracious sakes alive! Those are all revelations. Yeah, if you catch him on a switch and he is matched up on a smaller, quicker player, he can have some defensive difficulties, but his feel for the game and those long arms allow him to create so many turnovers. He’ll of course still need to continue adding bulk to his frame, but he is already a terrific player. After the Golden Bears cut the lead to three on Sunday, it was Anderson who the Bruins went to when an answer was needed. He responded time and again, not just getting into the lane and using a variety of moves for good looks at the hoop, but also setting up his teammates in good positions. We’re three months in and still not exactly sure just how good UCLA is, but with a player the caliber of Anderson leading the way, the Bruins are going to have a puncher’s chance come March. Read the rest of this entry »
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Thoughts on Arizona’s Big Road Win at UCLA

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 10th, 2014

This is the early conference game that both Arizona and UCLA fans had likely been looking forward to for a couple weeks. It’s the biggest historic rivalry in the conference and it was Arizona’s first road test in Pac-12 play . But really, as people were imagining what this game would look like, this is probably not what they foresaw. UCLA holding its own on the glass, despite almost no help from its pair of senior frontcourt starters? Arizona the team with the deadly outside shooting? Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams struggling, yet the Bruins keeping this close for 40 minutes? Let’s look at each of those things below.

Gabe York's Perimeter Shooting Was a Big Key For Arizona On Thursday Night (Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

Gabe York’s Perimeter Shooting Was a Big Key For Arizona On Thursday Night (Mamta Popat, Arizona Daily Star)

  • The Wildcats came into the game eighth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage and 13th in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage, while UCLA is a middling rebounding team with a ton of question marks up front. Therefore the expectation was that Arizona would dominate the glass. While the Cats did make some hay on the offensive boards and wound up dominating the interior on the offensive end (Arizona outscored UCLA 42-22 in the paint), UCLA stayed in the game in large part because it was able to create second chance opportunities of its own. This was a surprise even to Arizona head coach Sean Miller, who pointed to that as one of the keys of the game by saying “They really hurt us on the offensive glass. That was a surprise to us, because we’ve done very well there, and isn’t necessarily a strength of theirs but last night it was. If we had done a better job defensive rebounding, the game wouldn’t have come down to the final plays. One of the reasons that they were in it was because of the number of second shots they got.” Even more surprising, the Bruins did their damage on the glass without much of a contribution from the Wear twins, who combined to grab just four total boards. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: Oregon 76, UCLA 67

Posted by AMurawa on January 19th, 2013

rushedreactions

Andrew Murawa is an RTC correspondent and Pac-12 microsite writer. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s UCLA-Oregon game in Westwood.

Three Key Takeaways.

  1. The Battle for First Place. In the first Pac-12 match-up between ranked teams in almost four years, both teams brought undefeated conference records into Pauley Pavilion. After an up-and-down first half featuring crisp offense and a good flow, things bogged down significantly in the second half, with shooting percentages plummeting, whistles making a big comeback, and the action regularly interrupted. Still, with three and a half minutes left, we had a one-point game and everybody in the place was on the edge of their seats. From there Oregon hit the offensive glass, scored regularly in the middle and and knocked down free throws while UCLA ran poor offense and committed unforced turnovers, leading to a 14-6 Ducks run to end the game. With wins over both UCLA and Arizona in the bag, Oregon is now the team to beat in the Pac-12.

    Former UCLA Commit Dominic Artis Was A Big Reason For Oregon's Win Over The Bruins (Mason Trinca, Daily Emerald)

    Former UCLA Commit Dominic Artis Was A Big Reason For Oregon’s Win Over The Bruins (Mason Trinca, Daily Emerald)

  1. Pressure. With two freshman guards leading the charge, you’re not supposed to be able to go on the road and knock off a Top 25 conference opponent. But make no mistake, without the play of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson, the Ducks leave Pauley with a loss. Dotson struggled shooting, making just two threes while missing his nine other attempts from the field, but he chipped in on the glass, did his job in the offense and helped harass Jordan Adams into an 0-of-6 performance. Meanwhile, Artis scored 14 points, pressed the issue on offense and repeatedly found open teammates for good looks on the way to six assists. Perhaps more importantly, he was a constant pestering force on defense, helping to contribute to UCLA’s most turnovers in almost two months.
  2. Rebounding. I’ve harped on it before, but UCLA’s rebounding is a serious Achilles’ Heel for the Bruins. The Wear twins, really UCLA’s only traditional bigs, combined for five rebounds in a total of 53 minutes today. While Kyle Anderson has stepped up as a double-double threat on a regular basis (he posted his sixth of the season today), UCLA was exposed in the paint as Oregon was able to grab better than 35% of their own misses while grabbing almost 80% of UCLA’s misses. In particular, Arsalan Kazemi grabbed 11 boards – four on the offensive glass. All told, the Ducks outscored UCLA 12-2 on second chance points and 38-24 in the paint, with senior center Tony Woods, specifically, repeatedly getting great deep position and scoring in low.

Star of the GameDominic Artis. The freshman point guard, once a UCLA commitment, came into Pauley Pavilion and tormented his former future school. He ran the up-tempo offense like a veteran, pestered Bruins’ ball-handlers and seemingly attempted to make a play on any pass that stayed up in the air too long. With two first-half threes, he set the tempo for the Ducks and is a big reason why they currently sit atop the Pac-12 standings.

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Pac-12 Game of the Week: Missouri at UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on December 28th, 2012

As conference plays looms around the corner, the last real big game on the Pac-12 non-conference schedule tips off tonight at 7:00 PM PST on ESPN2 as the as-yet underachieving Bruins take on the Tigers, currently ranked #9 in the RTC Top 25. I’ll (@AMurawa) be on hand at Pauley Pavilion to report on the action, but in advance, let’s run down what to keep an eye on tonight.

Why It’s Important: While Missouri may have some solid wins on their non-conference resume (Virginia Commonwealth, Illinois and Stanford), UCLA is very much in need of heading into conference play with something positive in the rear view mirror. While they’re riding a four-game winning streak now and the offense has picked up over most of that stretch, defensively they are still struggling. And Missouri’s efficient offensive, run by playmaker par excellence Phil Pressey, is going to give the Bruins all the test they want. The hyped freshman class of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams has been explosive, but they’ll need to prove their toughness tonight in order to establish any national cred.

Phil Pressey's Quickness and Court Vision Will Test UCLA's Unproven Defense (US Presswire)

Phil Pressey’s Quickness and Court Vision Will Test UCLA’s Unproven Defense (US Presswire)

Missouri Player to Watch – Phil Pressey: The point has been made before, but I don’t mind repeating it: Pressey is the type of player who can, even in the midst of a poor shooting night, have a positive effect on his team on both ends of the court. The most recent example of such came on Saturday when Pressey missed his first 15 shots, wound up just 3-of-19 from the field (and an oh-fer from behind the arc) and yet was still almost universally regarded as the most important player in the Tigers’ nine-point win over Illinois. Why? Because his ability to create good looks for his teammates (and yes, part of that is being a constant threat to shoot the ball) is almost unparalleled. He hands out assists on better than 32% of his teammates baskets, good for better than six assists per night. Given UCLA’s record of struggling to stop penetration, priority number one for Ben Howland and his senior point guard Larry Drew II will be slowing Pressey, forcing bad shots and making other players beat them.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 02.16.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 16th, 2012

  1. Larry Scott has made quite a splash in his two-plus years in his current job. Aside from being partially responsible for making the Pac-10 obsolete and ushering in the era of the Pac-12, he helped the conference ink a huge new television deal with ESPN and Fox that made presidents, trustees and other administrators all up and down the conference very happy. That television deal begins next year, and as part of it, the conference will be unveiling a Pac-12 Network, and we got some more details on Wednesday about how that will look when the conference held the groundbreaking ceremony for the network’s future studios. There will be one national channel and six regional channels, and together they will air approximately 850 live events next year, including every football game and every men’s basketball game that does not appear on other national networks (i.e., ESPN or Fox). Additionally, all of those games will be available on mobile devices. Now, we just need to get some recruits into these schools so we’ll have some significantly more watchable games.
  2. Case in point: I write about Pac-12 basketball, I live in Los Angeles, I love college basketball rivalry games and I may or may not have had a rooting interest in the UCLA/USC basketball game on Wednesday night. But rather than being excited about watching the game, I took a look at it from time to time, merely out of a sense of duty. And the fact that I put my precious eyes in the precarious position of having to watch that mess should show just how dedicated I am. UCLA led the whole way, building its lead as high as 23 points in the second half, before fading back into a 10-point win. Still, despite the lopsidedness of the game, head coach Ben Howland never really called off the dogs, playing just seven players the whole way. The Bruins dominated on the glass (41.2% OR, 88.2% DR) and were led by the Wear twins, who combined for 30 points and 24 rebounds, each registering a double-double. And, Maurice Jones is still gunning away: 3-for-11 tonight.
  3. As we head down the stretch, we start saying goodbye to seniors, little by little. For Washington’s Darnell Gant, his final homestand of his career comes this weekend, as the Huskies finish the season with three straight road games. Gant has been in Seattle for five years now, after taking a redshirt his first year under Lorenzo Romar. But after an inauspicious beginning, Gant has the opportunity to become the first player in Washington history to go to four NCAA Tournaments. While he came into college dreaming of an NBA future, those plans are a longshot now. However, Gant already has a diploma in his pocket, earning a performing arts degree last June and could have another type of entertainment career ahead of him.
  4. Just like the Huskies, every other team in the top five of the conference standings have two home games and three road games remaining on their schedule. And fans of each team are probably all coming up with some sort of formula that will not only put that team in NCAA Tournament contention, but also give them a chance to take down the regular season title. For Colorado, that formula begins with a win at Utah on Saturday. While the Buffaloes have struggled on the road this year, that is a very winnable must-win game. For there, CU returns home, where they are 7-0 in conference, to host California and Stanford. Beating the Golden Bears will be tough no matter where they play, but the Buffs will need to extend their home record to 9-0. To this point, all of this is very reasonable; where Tad Boyle’s club will need to break form is in the final week of the season, when they’ll have to travel to the Oregon schools to wrap up the year. Winning at a lower division team like Oregon State in the final game of the season is very doable, leaving the game on March 1 at Oregon as the lone game where the Buffs would need to significantly overachieve to get the job done.
  5. Lastly, while Arizona is by no means giving up on the rest of the season, they are already making plans for the offseason: namely, the Bahamas. Schools are allowed to take an exhibition tour once every four years, and Sean Miller is planning to take his Wildcats on a short trip to the Bahamas in August. While the team will only play a handful of games there, the major bonus for the squad is the additional practices and extra time together than the team will get to experience. With a group of four talented freshmen coming in next season and needing to be merged with a team that will be missing three senior contributors on this year’s team, the offseason trip should make the Wildcats that much more difficult to handle next year.
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UCLA and Arizona: Reasons For Hope and Reasons For Concern

Posted by AMurawa on January 7th, 2012

Thursday night in Anaheim, the two blueblood Pac-12 basketball programs squared off in a battle of deeply flawed teams. While neither UCLA nor Arizona has lived up to either of their historical standards or even their diminished expectations heading into the 2011-12 season, both programs have reasons to believe that not only will things get better in a big way next season, but that they have the ability to improve between now and the Pac-12 Tournament in March. However, at the same time, if changes aren’t made and improvement not shown, both of these teams could continue to disappoint. So, below, the reasons for hope and the reasons for concern for both UCLA and Arizona.

Reasons for Hope – UCLA

The Bruins played without sophomore center Joshua Smith last night, as he was sidelined due to a concussion he suffered in practice on Wednesday. However, in his postgame press conference, head coach Ben Howland noted that Smith was making significant progress in his quest to improve his conditioning, reporting that he was down to his lowest weight in more than a year and that he had been putting in extra running and completed a three-mile run on Sunday. Improved conditioning should keep him on the floor for longer stretches, make him more effective for those stretches, and would hopefully improve his ability to avoid cheap defensive fouls. He still has to prove that on the court, however.  Another positive for the Bruins was the play of the Wear twins last night. The sophomores turned in their best collective performance, combining to score 34 points on 13-of-16 shooting while grabbing ten rebounds and just generally playing more aggressively and actively than they had displayed in the past. As Howland noted, this is really the first time in their career that they’ve played extended minutes, so there is still improvement to be had from both of them. Ideally, Thursday night was a first step towards realizing that improvement.

David Wear, UCLA

David Wear, And His Brother Travis, Are Still Growing Into Full-Time Players (photo credit: Lawrence K. Ho, LA Times)

Reasons for Hope – Arizona

In the previous ten games Solomon Hill had played against the two Los Angeles area schools, the LA native had averaged about five points and three rebounds. Thursday night Hill went for 16 points and 11 rebounds and has clearly matured to the point where he is the team’s go-to offensive player and their team leader. He’s a versatile 6’6” wing capable of scoring off the bounce, rebounding with the big boys (he’s second in the conference in rebounding), and creating for his teammates (he leads the Wildcats in assists and is 14th in the Pac-12). More importantly, he is beginning to lead by example. And perhaps his leadership is starting to rub off on Josiah Turner. The mercurial freshman point guard earned back his starting position which he last held in the Wildcats’ season opener, played the most minutes of his career, and scored nine points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out three assists – not the most impressive of lines, but a start at least. Turner was effective at getting in the lane and drawing contact (he got to the line six times) and also showed a willingness to look to set up his teammates. He’s got plenty of talent; if he can harness it positively, the Wildcats will be better for it.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 01.05.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 5th, 2012

  1. Not only did Oregon State lose its first two road games of this Pac-12 conference season, it has lost the last 11 conference road games it has played. As you might expect, the Beavers are quite happy to be back home this week. However, the bad part is, they kick off the homestand with California, a team that has beaten OSU in 29 of its last 34 contests. However, if Craig Robinson’s club can gain a little momentum this weekend at Gill Coliseum, perhaps they could use that energy to turn around their poor fortune on the road.
  2. Colorado is the one team in the conference with a winning conference record that gets to continue to play at home this week. However, after having dispatched with Utah easily last Saturday, tonight they will host Washington, “a different animal,” according to head coach Tad Boyle. While the Buffaloes are young and talented, Boyle says he will use this game against the Huskies as a litmus test for where they stand in the Pac-12. Given that CU is placing so much importance on this game, it will be interesting to see how the Huskies respond to their first conference road test.
  3. Is Tony Wroten a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate, asks The Arizona Republic’s Doug Haller. Of course, answers ESPN west-coast analyst Sean Farnham. Farnham cites Wroten’s tremendous ability in the open court, his scoring acumen, his strong rebounding for a guard, and, really, the weakness of the rest of the Pac-12 as key reasons why Wroten is the favorite for the Pac-12 POTY title. And, if you need some visual evidence, check out the sequence embedded there, where Wroten rebounds at one end, goes coast to coast, finishes above the rim, then hustles back downcourt and rejects a Devoe Joseph jumper. Classic.
  4. Most years, a UCLA/Arizona matchup is a contender for conference game of the year. This year, the luster is off the rivalry a bit, as UCLA has struggled and, frankly, isn’t always much fun to watch. But still, it is UCLA/Arizona, and any self-respecting obsessive college hoops fan will want to take a look at it. However, if you were to check out Ben Howland’s comment and read between the lines a little bit, you might want to have a Plan B on hold. UCLA’s defense has struggled mightily stopping dribble penetration this year, and Howland admits “Arizona is very hard for us to match up with. Basically, we’re playing against five guards.” For the Bruins to have any chance to hang with the Wildcats, they’ll need to find a way to slow the penetration from those guards and find a way to use guys like Joshua Smith and the Wear twins to take advantage of the relatively underized Wildcat frontline.
  5. Lastly, we head back up to Seattle for a great profile from The Seattle Times’ Percy Allen on Washington’s Abdul Gaddy, a friend of RTC. It was one year ago yesterday that Gaddy tore his ACL in practice, and it is amazing to think that he was back ready to go at the start of the 2011-12 season, just nine and half months later. While Gaddy’s injury-shortened sophomore campaign looked to be a breakout year for the Husky point guard, he has picked up this year right where he left off, leading his team in minutes played and assists and earning a co-captain role for Lorenzo Romar.

Finally, here’s this week’s Youtube Play of the Week… Arizona’s Josiah Turner to Nick Johnson.

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No Shocker: Reeves Nelson Dismissed By UCLA

Posted by AMurawa on December 9th, 2011

Just a month ago, Reeves Nelson was on just about everybody’s preseason All-Pac-12 team. As of today, according to a CBS Sports report, he’s no longer on the UCLA basketball team. “After much thought and deliberation, I have made the decision to dismiss Reeves Nelson from the UCLA men’s basketball team effective immediately,” said head coach Ben Howland in a statement released Friday morning after the coach met with Nelson following his final exams.

Reeves Nelson, UCLA

Reeves Nelson's Career In Westwood Was Officially Ended Friday With His Dismissal From The UCLA Basketball Program (credit: Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

The fall from grace was swift and unexpected, but there were warning signs prior to this season. In previous years he had been known to openly yell at teammates for mistakes on the court, he famously threw a ball at Brendan Lane’s chest in disgust and just generally showed a lot of emotional immaturity. Even in high school he was repeatedly suspended for behavioral issues. This season things got worse, and fast. In the Bruins’ season-opening loss to Loyola Marymount, Nelson grew visibly frustrated as the game went on, and he failed to participate in a couple of huddles, earning his first “indefinite” suspension of the year. After sitting out the Bruins’ next game (another loss, this one to Middle Tennessee State), he was reinstated in time for the trip to the Maui Invitational, then he showed up late for the team flight. Howland somehow allowed Nelson to catch a later flight, and then benched him for a half in the tournament opener against Chaminade. Last weekend, Nelson blew a defensive assignment just before the end of the first half in a loss to Texas, got into a verbal altercation with Howland in the locker room, was benched for the second half there (during which he drew criticism for his behavior on the bench) and then subsequently suspended indefinitely again. Then today, the divorce became official.

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