UCLA Basketball Roundup: One Hero Not Enough to Beat a Team

All year UCLA has been playing parts of games, and getting away with it.  Last night they played terrible in the first half and forgot defense in overtime and still barely lost.  Will this team learn from this?  Will they get burned when they play better teams that require 40 minutes of effort?  Or will they play themselves out of the tourney?

It is ironic and sad that the one player who put things in perspective, was the one player who ALWAYS plays 40 minutes:

"This kind of slaps us back into reality," said Lee, who had 19 points. "When we were on that winning streak, everything was all good. It was like, yeah, we're going to get into the tournament, blah, blah, blah.

"This kind of levels us and gets us back down and saying we've got to start from square one again and just build it back up."

In the quotes from the rest of the team, all seem to be saying they thought they were going to win after Lee's dramatic-clutch send-us-to-overtime three pointer.  They don't seem to get the real message: play defense in overtime or play at all in the first half and you would not need Lee's heroics.  In other words, just play 40 minutes like Malcolm Lee and the rest will fall in place. In a section entitled Bruins may be back on the bubble, Josh Smith says:

"We all knew in our mind that we were going to win, but that’s why you play the game," Smith said.


Smith called the loss a "small road bump in trying to win the Pac-10" but it certainly seems like a pretty big one. UCLA will have to win out and get help in the form of an Arizona loss somewhere else along the line.

Smith was not alone in those sort of quotes, Honeycutt and Nelson also said similar things.  More on that after the jump.

Despite of the comments they made, instead they all should have been embarrassed by the first half. How bad was the first half?  (emphasis mine)

 

Cal fed off the energy of the Haas Pavilion crowd and simply blitzed the Bruins throughout the first half, taking a 29-18 lead into the locker room.

UCLA is shooting 7-of-24 from the field and 1-of-12 from 3-point range, with 10 turnovers, limping to its worst first half of the season (the Bruins scored 17 in the second half against Pacific). With just over seven minutes left in the half, no UCLA player had more than two points.

Worse, the Bears are out-hustling the Bruins, racing to almost every loose ball, every 50-50 opportunity, every offensive rebounds. Cal has owned the glass with a 22-13 advantage, including eight offensive boards.

The out-hustled part is what bugs me most.  Cal won because they wanted it more, especially Jorge Gutierrez.

UCLA did all it could to overcome a horrendous start. The Bruins had more turnovers (six) than points (four) in the first nine minutes.

The Bears broke out of their slump and sprinted out to a 15-4 lead that was capped by Gutierrez's three-pointer. They showed the hustle and heart -- especially on defense, diving for loose balls and rebounds -- that had been missing the past two weeks.

The relentless pressure held the Bruins to 29 percent shooting in the opening half and led to several easy Cal buckets. UCLA coach Ben Howland was furious at his team's sloppy play, stomping and screaming at his players, "Wake up!". . .

 

The Bruins trailed 29-18 at halftime, switched from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone after the break, and the swap did wonders to pull them closer. UCLA began the second half on a 15-8 run to trim the deficit to four, then took the lead briefly.

Yes the Bruins did "wake up" and  "win" the second half.  But it took CBH using a gimmick, a zone, to bring them back:

It was nearly an epic comeback for the Bruins, however.  . . .

"We really came out flat and that’s totally on me," Howland said. "There’s no way that should be."

UCLA trailed 29-18 at halftime, but came out with much more energy in the second. The Bruins even delved deep into their bag of tricks to scrap and scheme their way back into the game.

After cutting the deficit to 35-28 with under 16 minutes to go, Howland reached into 2009 and pulled out a 2-3 zone defense. It was the first time the Bruins had played zone all season.
They ran it for less than 10 Cal possessions, during which they continued to trim into the deficit.

I give CBH credit for trying what it takes to win.   UCLA not playing 40 minutes (except Lee) was not a surprise.  CBH going to a zone was a shock.  I wish the whole team played like Lee and a zone would not be needed.  One key was Tyler Honeycutt.  Tyler cannot cover someone quick and when he was matched up on Gutierrez,  Gutierrez destroyed Honeycutt and UCLA all night.   Then the Bruins got a bad break when little-shooting (5.6 ppg) Brandon Smith, Cal's PG, hit two big threes including the game winner.  Going into the game Smith was 10-28 for the season from three. 

"Their coach found something that was working for them and they exploited it all night," said UCLA junior guard Malcolm Lee, who led the team with 19 points. "They were running him off of picks, high pick and rolls, doubles. Nothing broke, why fix it? ... We just have to get back in the lab and basically fix this problem."

But Gutierrez' biggest play was not one of his brilliant coast-to-coast layups, or his conniving thievery or even his outside game.

With 14 seconds left in overtime and no options at the top of the key, Gutierrez delivered a bullet to teammate Brandon Smith in the right corner for a wide-open 3-pointer, giving Cal an insurmountable four-point lead. .  . .

"The zone stopped the bleeding a lot," Lee said. "Although they were scoring in the zone, it was more like one out of three times, as opposed to scoring every time against the man. Zone is the reason we got back in the game."

 

That horrid defense was the WORST in overtime, how bad?

When Lee's three-pointer at the end of regulation went in, the Bruins celebrated as if the game had ended, but seemingly had a letdown in overtime: UCLA did not get a single defensive stop in the extra period.


California was six of eight from the field in overtime and got offensive rebounds on both misses. UCLA failed to box out on a missed free throw, giving Cal the ball back with a minute to play and the Golden Bears took a 71-68 lead.

Zero stops in overtime, wonder why we lost?  The worst was the block out the one time Gutierrez missed a free throw:

Coach Ben Howland said the Bruins were also to blame for failing to block out, a breakdown that has haunted UCLA throughout the season.

"You can't miss block outs and expect to win on the road," Howland said.

That one was on Reeves.  Yes, non-Lee Bruins, you have gotten away with playing parts of games this year and still won.  But against better teams, shoot even well coached teams, you can't take even off plays, let alone halves. 

UCLA can beat Arizona State this upcoming Thursday playing part-time but against Arizona in the last game in "Old Pauley" 40 minutes will be needed.  Furthermore, if this team wants to reach its potential, it needs to play like Lee not like [INSERT the name of any other Bruin house cat part-timer].  These Bruins owe it to the legacy of Coach and the other great Bruins to play their hearts out and never again read "they were out-hustled."

Go Bruins.

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