For last few days we had been pointing to this Richmond game as a decent test to find out where the Bruins are heading into the conference season. We were all feeling good with our 4 game winning streak but we maintained our perspective because those wins were racked up against cup cakes. So we were interested to see how the Bruins would perform tonight. Well the Bruins kept their winning streak going tonight with a hard fought 71-63 victory over Richmond Spiders. The win streak is now at 5 and the team is 5-0 during PRN (you know what those initials stand for).
Here is the boxscore. There were three players of the game tonight. For the first time this season I think the Wear Twins came up huge down the stretch with clutch shots and huge offensive rebounds securing the wins for the Bruins. The Twins combined for 26 points and 12 rebounds (7 of them came on the offensive side).
The other guy who got it done for the Bruins (7-5) was point guard Jerime Anderson. Jerime finished the game with 13 points and team leading 6 assists. He got the Bruins going on the second half as he help break open a 24-24 half time score with a 7-0 Bruin run. He had his share of classic Jerime mistakes but it was his leadership late in second half that helped the Bruins close out the game. More on his efforts and the game flow after the jump.
Bruins started the game sloooooow on defense getting shredded on M2M defense. In the first 5 mins David Wear, Joshua Smith and Jerime Anderson were the key culprits on D early on as they were getting embarrassed by the Spiders. Meanwhile, on the other end of the court we looked lost with no leadership from Zeke Jones at point.
Finally Ben Howland woke up. He
took out Jones, brought in Norman Powell and put us in zone. Bruins then went on a 7-0 run to close the score 12-14. Our offense getting bogged down when Jones kept driving down the lane thinking he was going to score on some gimme points ala UC Davis and UCI. It didn't work out that way and the Bruins fell behind again 12-21. We were ice cold, making only 5 of our first 23 FG attempts. Then Howland took out Jones and boom all on the sudden Bruins went on a 6-0 run keyed by decent defense.
Jones finished the game with team high 16 points but frankly the stat line is deceptive. He did not do a good job of leading this team and distributing the ball among his team-mates. His shoot first mindset killed us on number of possessions. Howland needs to find a way to rein him or bench him to get better and smarter contribution from him during the conference season.
The score was 24-24 at the half. Anderson started the second half strong for the Bruins breaking open a 24-24 half time score by leading the Bruins to a 7-0 run (scoring 5 of those points). In the closing mins he helped seal the game setting the Wear twins with dunks and layups in the paint.
What the Bruins did well tonight was rebounding. Our rebounding kept us in the game in first (out rebounding the Spiders 25 to 17). We ended up out rebounding the Spiders by 15 (36 to 21). As mentioned above, let's give some credit to the Wear Twins. They did a solid job cleaning up on the weakside as they were absolutely relentlessly on the boards. We are going to need that kind of tenacity from them for this program to live up to its preseason expectations.
Joshua Smith contributed with 11 points and 5 rebounds but frankly he was underwhelming. The game remains close in the second half (after the Bruins had run up a 7 point lead) because of lack of physicality, toughness and desire from Smith. He looked soft, unsure and lethargic down low as he didn't show a lot of will power in going after the rim. He must have blown at least 4 or 5 opportunities for easy dunks and layups, as he either weakly passed off the ball to befuddled team-mates or put up weak shots. Smith finally dunked the ball once in second half. For the Bruins to make a run in the Pac-12 they are going to need much more from Smith
The Bruins got a good win tonight but it could have gotten much uglier early on when the Spiders missed some easy shots. The Spiders started the game making 6 out of their first 10 shots. But once Howland switched primarily to zone, the defense kicked in and it seemed to throw off Richmond as they finished the game making only 18 of their 52 shot attempts.
If the Bruins want to make a run during the conference season they cannot afford to get off to slow start like they did tonight. Who knows perhaps the way they closed out the Spiders will give us some much needed confidence.
I guess the kool-aid view here is that it was our defense that helped us close out this game. Hey, it's almost X-Mas. So I will go with that kool-aid view for now. Let's keep drinking it at least for few more days unless reality hits us in the face up North in few days. Remember nothing short of a tourney season will be acceptable for this season. Howland needs to figure out a way to get it done.
With that we will let you take over this post game thread so you can fire away with your quick takes. If you have extended reflections make sure to use the fanpost section. Wish everyone an early Merry X-Mas. Fire away.