Merry Christmas Bruins Nation.
At the risk of taking flack from some naysayers, I will fanpost my comments on the game over UCI.
The UCI actually had some terrific positives. The biggest positive was the play of Malcolm Lee, whose offensive game I have maligned repeately. Malcomb was 7-12 from the field and 4-8 from 3 pts. He scored 20 and guarded Moore, UCI’s best player, for most of the game. He also looks like he has refined his shooting stroke. He definitely shot with confidence in this game.
Zeke Jones took command of the team, with Honeycutt out, and scored 20 on 7-15 shooting, and was also 4-8 from 3pts. Zeke looks like a scorer on the court. He continues to improve and plays with total confidence. While I continue to question whether he can defend against the quick Pac 10 guards coming up, he looked like a solid division I player in this game.
Joshua Smith was 6-9 from the field. Unfortunately, he was only 2-5 from the free throw line. The continued high performance from three vital starters was an extremely good sign.
So this game provided evidence that we have three very good puzzle pieces in a five man game, with TH out, is good news.
TL had his first starting assignment, and fit in nicely with the team. He really did not play like a freshman (except at the free throw line at the end.)
The Bruins were on the verge of blowing UCI out several times, but just couldn’t get it done at crunch time. Horrible free throw shooting by JA and TL put the game in doubt in the final two minutes. While that was frustrating and resulting in a down post game thread, I see ML and ZJ’s massive improvement at the offensive and, and JS’ steady dominating play as positives that predict good things ahead.
RN’s struggles against a team with no real post defense was the only big downside. RN is an extremely slow thinker and reactor on defense.
Although BNers love BL, I still see him as a less than polished basketball player. In 20 minutes he managed 3 pts. and 5 rebounds, and 1 blk. shot. This was against a weak front line. His four point play foul on Mike Wilder was a bone-headed play. RN hit him with a nice pass inside and he dropped the ball. He did not dominate against UCI’s weak inside players. He followed a nice rebound with a nervous boneheaded turnover. BL is just not there yet. He needs to relax and play with confidence. He looks like a nervous rookie about half the time. The other half of the time he looks like a nice bench player who can help the team.
I did not like the fact that CBH held Joshua Smith out for the last 3:26 of the game. The Bruins were having trouble scoring points, and needed JS in the game. I am sure CBH thinks the JS is a liability at the free throw line, and a defensive liability, but I think he's as good as RN on defense, and I would rather have him shooting free throws than RN as well. He is a cool customer, and he dominates the paint at both ends. He also draw multiple defenders, which leaves open jumps shots for ML and ZJ.
In addition to the missed free throws, the officials came to UCI’s aid down the stretch as well. Although RN came down the court at breakneck speed and was out of control, UCI’s player definitely was moving laterally under RN as he came to the basket. The charge call was a bad call on RN. Equally bad was the block call on Zeke when Rembert jumped into Zeke and drew a three point play. The proper call was a charge, or at least a no call. You could not have played better textbook defense than Zeke played there. (Of course, they could have called a foul on BL as he bumped the UCI player with 1 second to go, but didn't, so its not all one way.)
Zeke did miss his two last shots down the stretch, which was part of a spate of poor play that gave UCI a chance. He and ML played 35 minutes, and in hindsight the missed shots may have been from fatigue.
Guards need to must make free throws down the stretch. JA first free throw was a total choke job. His second compensated long. These free throws will be in his head the next time he steps to the line in crunch time, if he ever sees the floor at crunch time. JA has played a lot better this year, and made a big three in this game to end a UCI run. He didn't play poorly overall, and it was sad to seem him revert at the free throw line to a guy you don’t want in the game.
We should have blown UCI out. We should not have played so poorly in crunch time. But we did push back UCI on several runs in the second half, and looked like a good basketball team for most of the game. I see both ML and ZJ coming out of this game with improved offensive games. If they can play like this in the Pac 10, with TH back, we will do well.