IMHO, the game last night was the least surprising of the year. We came out uninspired but we won the game and in the end it was not close. I never felt like we were going to lose even when we were trailing for much of the game, but it was not pretty. The Bruins keep doing what needs to be done to be in position to make the tournament, even if it is not always pretty. But, and this is a big but, they win. Eight of the last nine, and 14-3 since a 3-4 start.
Oregon was a potential "let down" game after two emotional wins last week. CBH sounded like Tydides in the post game:
"This was a huge win for us after the emotional week," Howland said. "I was worried that this was a trap game because I knew how well Oregon was playing."
Well Tydides would not have called it a huge win but we DID avoid the trap loss. But while I felt confident we were going to win, getting to the victory never comes the way you expect. The last two games have been dominated by Josh Smith. He was a non-factor much like Reeves Nelson was in the first Oregon game. The key to the game and the second half run was the three guard lineup.
They eventually sailed past the Ducks behind Lee and backcourt mates Lazeric Jones and Jerime Anderson.
After UCLA trailed 39-37 with 10:13 left, Anderson had a quick seven points to spur a 27-15 run the rest of the way. The backcourt accounted for 23 of those points.
Anderson and Jones each finished with 10 points, and Jones added six assists and three steals. Anderson also had three assists and a blocked shot.
"We got layups in the second half, attacking their press," Howland said. "We did a better job attacking their press, getting the ball, getting to the basket. And Jerime had a huge three for us."
More after the jump
Part of the reason this team is playing better is they are playing the "right" positions. Malcolm Lee is no longer "a caged pit bull" restrained by the confines of the PG position as he was last yar. He is a different player as a wing, be it 2 or 3. He is also an offensive force when he does not have a tough cover on defense:
Lee has become the Bruins' defensive stopper, but Oregon doesn't really have a high-scoring threat for him to guard, so that freed him up to display his skills on the other end of the floor. He consistently found holes in the Oregon defense, cutting through the lane or sneaking in behind the Ducks' zone and finished with a season-high 25 points.
. . .
He was better in the second half, making six of nine shots for 14 points, but his his 11 first-half points were more important because the Bruins were struggling to find an offensive rhythm.
Lee made four of 10 shots in the first half, including two three-pointers that kept UCLA within reach, and was the only UCLA player to make more than one basket in the first half.
"He brings it every night defensively," Howland said. "But he made a lot of big plays tonight. He made a big three early in the game when we were struggling, he was really good attacking the rim and getting to the basket. This is one of his really good games of the year."
Zeek becoming the Bruins PG did more than just let free Lee to become a very good wing player, it also let Jerime Anderson find himself without having the pressure of being a PG. Jermie had a good game last night and was key to the run. Jerime is so much more comfortable with Zeek either as PG or sharing the PG position. Anderson, like Lee, has seemingly found the right position for himself as a 2 guard or combo guard.
But the most interesting development on the "right" position front may be Tyler Honeycutt. Tyler struggled in the first half but played well in the second half when he played Power Forward almost exclusively. Like Anderson whose body says PG, Honeycutt's body says 3. But he may be better suited to be a 4, especially against small teams. UCLA doubles on Catron late in the game worked well because they were big to big with Honeycutt coming quickly to help. His rebounding also changed the tide:
UCLA dominated the paint, outrebounding the Ducks, 41-28, and outscoring Oregon, 34-20, in the lane, which enabled the Bruins to shoot 53.6 percent from the field in the second half.
"I thought the rebounding margin was big," Howland said. . . .
Bruins forward Tyler Honeycutt finished with a game-high 13 rebounds, 10 on the defensive end in addition to six assists and a blocked shot. Nine of Honeycutt's rebounds came in the second half.
"I thought Honeycutt had a great second half," Howland said.
This team is improving but still has plenty of work to do. Reeves needs to continue to work on his attitude and briefly on the end of game incident:
The sophomore forward had nine points, nine rebounds and one chippy exchange with Jay-R Strowbridge with 22 seconds left after the Oregon guard knocked over Nelson with a hard foul as he drove toward the basket.
Nelson quickly rose and took a step toward Strowbridge before UCLA players and officials stepped in to keep the peace. Howland also came onto the court and was prepared to intervene if necessary.
"I didn't want Reeves to react to it," Howland said. "I was going to tackle Reeves because we couldn't afford to lose anybody for a game" from a suspension. . . .
"I just know I got hacked pretty hard and I hurt my ankle a little bit," Nelson said, "so I was upset."
Reeves needs to keep working on properly channeling his emotions. I think CBH deserves credit for his handling of Reeves and hopefully Reeves will improve his team defense as he has done with his M2M.
UCLA is doing the right things to get to the Tourney. It would be nice if Saturday was 40 minutes of effort and a blow out but that seems unlikely. However, as long as they keep improving and winnning, they will be in the right spot at the end of the year.