After UCLA showed some positive signs in Wednesday's loss to #7 Villanova, the Bruins took a step backwards in their execution this afternoon. Despite sloppy play and a surplus of turnovers, the Bruins displayed a measure of resolve and the ability to keep themselves in a game despite many flaws. The final score was 89-85, with Malcolm Lee leading all players with 23 points. VCU started the game with a 8-0 run; while the Bruins briefly chipped away at that lead, the Rams maintained an 7-9 point lead until about 6 minutes remaining in the half. At that point, Malcolm Lee scored the first 3 of his 13 first half points and helped get the Bruins within 3 points to end the half, 40-37.
The Bruins cut the VCU lead to 1 point to start the second half, but never could break their lead. With about 7 minutes remaining, VCU showed the ability to pour on the points that got them to Madison Square Garden this week, with a sequence of good shooting and pressing on D opening a 6 point lead to an 13 point gap in 35 seconds. Unlike Wake Forrest, UCLA was able to break VCU's run and put up a late fight; until Reeves Nelson missed an ill-advised 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds remaining, the Bruins had kept themselves in a position to win, or at least extend the game.
Turnovers were again an issue, with the Bruins turning the ball over 21 times today. Honeycutt and Lazeric Jones led the team with 5 turnovers each, with several mental lapses and sloppy passes killing what momentum the Bruins were able to put together at a couple of critical moments. While Lazeric Jones was not at his best, he saw 33 minutes this afternoon mainly because Jerime Anderson was at his worst today. After a couple of solid performances, Jerime had an awful stretch in the first half today, with an inadvertent elbow briefly knocking VCU's Jamie Skeen out of the game followed by a pair of ill-advised and badly executed passes near the basket costing the Bruins 4 near-certain points. That short stretch was the last that we saw Jerime today, totaling just 7 minutes, turning the ball over 3 times himself in that stretch.Reeves Nelson again had some defensive struggles and despite scoring 10 points in the 1st half, had another soft start (as DCBruins noted yesterday). Reeves and Tyler Honeycutt both again finished with double-doubles; 20-10 for Nelson, 18-13 for Honeycutt. Zeke finished with 14 points and 7 rebounds, but also the 5 turnovers. Joshua Smith again saw foul trouble severely limit his impact, playing only 13 minutes with 2 points and 1 rebound. Despite playing on a bad knee, Brendan Lane contributed a solid 26 minutes in place of Smith, scoring 4 points, 3 rebounds and blocking 2 shots.
The Bruins return to Westwood having not so much as led a second of their two games in Madison Square Garden. While an 0-2 run in NYC was a possibility, there are plenty of issues still to be worked out with this squad. Despite the flaws, the team showed an ability to stay in games and fight that was not evident last year. With a trip to Kansas next weekend, they are going to need that spirit and a lot more.
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