Well there ya go. That is lot more like it. Finally we saw a basketball team in a UCLA uniform on a Saturday afternoon in Pauley. Coach Ben Howland's Bruins finally busted out of their Saturday slump to pull out a fun to watch, methodical victory over an above average (relatively speaking here by atrocious Pac-10 standards this season) Washington State team in Pauley. The final score was 74-62 in favor of the good guys. Here is the box score.
Before Thursday night the formula for a Bruin win this season was basically praying to the Good Lord about Ragovic and Roll getting hot and somehow not screw it up on the defensive end. Well we now have had a UCLA team that for two games in a row have shown semblance of a methodical motion offense, thanks to at least average (and in some moments inspiring) play from its point guard and a core that seems to making an earnest effort to generate points by working as a team. Lot of this is happening because of the continued emergence of couple of freshmen as potential leaders on the court.
That brings me to today's players of the game: for me it was a combination Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson. These two guys have a long way to go in terms of being compared to the core nucleus of AA and JF, but you can sense there is a chemistry building between them on both ends of the court. Honeycutt was basically the point person on offense as it seems to run through him. He finished the game with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks. Nelson on the other hand picked up on Classof66's pleading from our last game thread FINISHING in the paint as he racked up team high 19 points and 9 rebounds.
As good as those guys were it was as Donnie Mac said a TOTAL TEAM WIN, which included encouraging effort from Nikola Dragovic. Dragovic poured in 18 points, which included some clutch shots in the second half. In terms of his point total, in this specific instance it wasn't unusual since he scored 20 points in Pullman and 23 in Pauley against the same guys last season. However, what I did appreciate today from Ragovic was there were times he did make some effort on the defensive end, he dove for a loose ball (even though that came after him missing) and made some good shots inside within the flow of the game. We can only hope we will see more of that from him (and the team) on a consistent basis rest of the season.
Bruins now have an overall record of 9-10 and 4-3 in the Pac-10, which has them in the third place in this putrid conference. Perhaps they are poised to make a run with two games coming up on Oregon Trail. However, I am not getting my hopes high given what we saw against Stanford less than two weeks ago. More after the jump.
The revelation from this week is that this team is clearly better one without Jerime Anderson. As Achilles playfully noted in the game thread:
We improved when we got rid of Gordon ... and really improved when we got rid of Anderson. If we get rid of Ragovic we might make the Sweet 16.
Well we know he was kidding but there is something to that. Mustafa Abdul Hamid clearly brings something to the table we don't have with Anderson, which is basic, poised point guard play. I think many of us knew that we could have an above average squad this season, if we got average point guard play on a consistent basis. We didn't get it until this week. It will be very interesting to see how Ben Howland manages his rotation here on out because we will need more of what Mustafa has brought to the team this week (and I am not even referring to that magical buzzer beating shot).
I was also very surprised by the effectiveness of our zone defense against this good shooting WSU team. I didn't think it was going to work and I am happy to be wrong about it. I think what seems evident that our players have bought into it and they are showing it not only with some energy on defensive side but also solid play on the other end of the court. Guess another realistic way to look at is that it's Coach Howland who has finally bought into the idea of zone defense and implementing it in a meaningful way in his game prep.
What I liked when I was watching today was seeing our team taking two charges (one by Nelson and the other one by Keefe). I LOVED watching Honeycutt dive to the floor for a loose ball in the first half. And as mentioned above I was heartened to see Drago going all out for a ball out of bounce early in the first game. It was good for an afternoon however, it's not going to matter much if we show up in Oregon and play like how did at Maples.
IF and this is a HUGE IF, we can somehow show some consistency next week by winning two games on the road that we should have a good chance to win (IF we play up to their potential), perhaps there will be some hope to what has been till this week a lost season.
It's nice to celebrate a post game hoops victory thread on a Saturday. FINALLY, it was nice to see a real basketball "team" wearing the four letters on Saturday. I am sure you guys have lot more to add to this afternoon's game. Fire away.