UCLA Basketball is back in Old Pauley Under Glass, and Ben Howland's No Excuses Tour starts with a victory.
After an extremely slow start caused mostly by poor shot selection by a certain set of twins that will go unnamed and the news of Shabazz Muhammad's ineligibility (at least for now), the Bruins found their groove offensively by involving the young talent on the team, and eventually pulled away from Indiana State by a score of 85-59 (box score).
As this is the first game of the season against a, shall we say, mediocre opponent, this postgame will be more about first impressions.
Player of the Game: How about Jordan Adams. This was as good a debut for a freshman as any I've ever seen in the Howland era. Adams played with poise, confidence, and made great decisions on his way to a game high 21 points on 7-12 shooting. Adams was everywhere. Diving on the floor to secure possession and playing well off the ball to free himself. Adams may come back down to earth, but man did I like what I saw out of him.
Kyle Anderson could have had a better debut, but there were certain passes that he made that we haven't seen in years. The kid is a playmaker and I'll chalk up some of what we saw to first game jitters.
Tony Parker is the last of the eligible freshman class to debut, and he found a decent amount of time in the Travis Wear/Josh Smith/TP center rotation. He appears to be the most mobile of the three, and some of the moves he made near the end of the game have me wanting to see more and see if he can eat more into TWear's minutes at that position.
Larry Drew II was largely invisible, and I'm not sure what to think of that. If this game is any indication, he's certainly not a selfish player. His defense never stood out to me as particularly good or bad. He was just...there. I suppose that's good enough for now with all the other talent on the team.
Surprise, Joshua Smith is still big, but he does look better. Problem is, he didn't really play better. Defensively he has a little more range now that he lost a little weight, but he just disappeared on offense. ISU zoned up to try and take him out of the game, but you got a sense that he was content to be that distraction in the middle.
Tyler Lamb looks better as well, and defensively he was much more consistent than he was last year. Then again, this was Indiana State.
Norman Powell played a fantastic defensive game. On offense, he's back to settling for threes. We need to find a way to get him and Adams some driving lanes, which leads me to...
The Wears. What's the problem, right? They had 30 points between them. Unfortunately they got them throughout at least three quarters of the game playing a disgustingly selfish brand of ball. Watching Travis Wear do a one dribble pullup early in the shot clock from 20 feet out was bad enough, but we saw it twice. Offensive flow in the game was directly correlated with how much shot hunting these two chuckers were doing. When they're content to set screens for our wings and establish position down low, the ball just moves better and the points follow shortly after. When they think that the sets we run are made to get them open 18 foot jumpers, you get the first ten minutes of the game: an unwatchable mess of selfish slog ball. I appreciate that these two work hard, no one's taking that away from them, but mentally, the team is better off when they are complimentary players that score opportunistically.
As we await word on what exactly the situation is with Shabazz Muhammad (thanks for the clarification at halftime, Dan), we see that there are some very exciting pieces to work with this year even without him if Howland is able to get over his favoritism and play the players that have earned the time. Next game is against UC Irvine in Old Pauley Under Glass next Tuesday.