There is no excuse for what we saw happen at Sam's Club Center tonight. Yet again, the Bruins failed to put together two halves (or even some significant stretches) of competent basketball, the consequence being that UCLA has now lost 4 straight men's basketball games to U$C, this latest loss by a 52-63 score.
Like many other UCLA games of the season, this was a story of two halves. While the Bruins started the game slow and sloppy - forcing many of their early shots, after the first 6 minutes, the team began to catch fire and look like an actual organized basketball team. After being down by as much as 8 points, the Bruins began a Reeves Nelson-led charge back into the game, taking their first lead, 22-21 at the 7:50 mark of the half. A Jerime Anderson 3-point play with just under 2 minutes remaining gave the Bruins a 30-27 lead. After an Alex Stepheson free throw, the Bruins went to the locker room with a 30-28 lead, which would turn out to be the last time UCLA held a lead tonight.
The first half saw an inspired effort by Reeves Nelson; starting the game shooting 5-5 from the floor, and finishing the half with 12 points and 4 rebounds. Unfortunately, he was not able to continue with that same type of effort or drive in the second half, not a unique occurrence in this season. And while Reeves' top stretches of play often correspond with his teammates upping their performance; the counter also holds true. Like it or not, Reeves drives this team, or puts it in neutral. As DCBruins put it somewhere in the gamethread, there is a good Nelson, and a bad Nelson. while the first half saw good Nelson, the second saw plenty of bad Nelson. After holding that 2-point lead at the half, the Bruins quickly gave it up, falling behind by 4 points after 2 and a half minutes. After $C took an 8-point lead at the 14:20 mark - fueled by a 12-4 $C run, the Bruin offense went cold, missing 10 consecutive shots from the field. Only an inability of USC to make shots in that mid-half stretch kept the Bruins in the game into the final few minutes. The streak was broken by a Reeves Nelson dunk that briefly held hope for a late-game outbreak. Alas, that accounted for Nelson's only points of the half. After a couple of teases around the 5-minute mark, the Bruins finally gave up the act, allowing the trogans to pull away and ice the game.
While I may have singled out Reeves earlier, this loss was certainly a team effort - and at least Reeves was performing well for a significant period of the game. A Cursory, ESPN-ticker examination look at Tyler Honeycutt's line tonight would point to a decent performance, just missing out on another double-double (10 points, 9 rebounds). There was very little positive that one could take from actually watching him play tonight, though. While his responsibilities were increased at time due to Lazeric Jones' injury - playing as a point forward at moments - his play certainly did not elevate with such. Tyler shot 3-10 from the field and finished the game with 7 turnovers. While he was being covered by SC's best defender for much of the game, he was also struggling on the defensive side, and looked little like the TH whose performance at Allen Fieldhouse thrust himself into discussions of upcoming NBA lottery selections. Malcolm Lee faced his struggles tonight as well, making just 1 shot from the field. Zeke Jones was not expected to be 100-percent, expected considering the injury suffered in last week's game against Washington, and with an 0-7 performance from the line and 1 assist in 22 minutes, was not close to peak performance - though considering his injury, the presence of only Jerime Anderson behind at the point likely forced his presence tonight. Speaking of Jerime , I have to admit that he actually played a good game tonight, one of the best we have seen from him in a UCLA uniform. Despite only 18 minutes on the court, he was the Bruins' second-leading scorer, finishing with 11 points on 4-5 shooting along with 1 rebound and 1 assist. While Jerime is not a good point guard, even I have to admit that on this team, he has a role to play, and he played it well tonight.
Joshua Smith again found himself in foul trouble. While only picking up 1 in the first half, he accrued 2 quick fouls just after halftime. Overll, Smith played 22 minutes before fouling out for the second straight game, finishing with 8 points and 3 rebounds. While he does get screwed on some of the calls against him, it remains true that he still needs to work on his game, and prevent some of the bad moves that often lead to his key issues. Brendan Lane struggled to keep up and stay physical with his SC counterparts in the frontcourt, finishing with just 1 rebounds and just 1 (missed) shot attempt.
This was never going to be an easy game for us, particularly with Zeke's injury; in 2011 Pac-10 terms, U$C is a solid team. Given the multiple personalities shown by this UCLA team, who was to know how they would come onto the court. Unfortunately, we have all too much experience with what came out tonight. In a postgame interview, SC's Alex Stevenson said about tonight's victory for the bad guys: "this game means everything to us". I really wish I could say that our team felt the same way. Because it sure as hell did not feel like it from watching their effort and performance out there tonight.
The result tonight sets up what becomes a critical road trip to Oregon for the now 1-2 (Pac-10) Bruins post-season hopes. UCLA will next play on Thursday night in Corvallis, before concluding the trip in Oregon's new Matthew Knight Arena on Saturday afternoon. This is your postgame thread