There are a number of story lines from last night's "huge" win over Fresno State. In this roundup, I will take them from the preseason perspective. First, the theme we thought before the year. We thought this would be a team led by Freshman and Ben Howland promised us this team would run. They do and it does.
Led by three freshmen starters, UCLA's offense has cranked up in its last three home games.
Shabazz Muhammad scored 20 of his career-high 27 points in the second half, Jordan Adams added 25 points and Kyle Anderson had career bests with 20 points and 17 rebounds in the Bruins' 91-78 victory over Fresno State on Saturday night. It was the first time three UCLA freshmen scored 20 or more points in a game.
It was the Bruins' fourth straight win, and the third game in a row that they scored 89 or more points.
But while I think Kyle is the leader and Shabazz is beginning to show why he was so highly related, the most valuable player is the kid we were not even sure was going to be in the player rotation before the year started, Jordan Adams:
It was Adams who jump-started a UCLA comeback in the first half, it was Adams who hit a layup to cap a mad scramble that helped his team to an unexpected halftime lead, and it was Adams whose energy pushed UCLA to a 91-78 win over Fresno State on Saturday night at Pauley Pavilion. . . .
Fresno State (5-7) missed its first five shots in the game but the Bruins couldn't immediately take advantage. At one point the Bulldogs had a nine-point lead, 25-16, and a loud but lonely-sounding UCLA fan screamed "Go Bruins," in a voice more angry than pleading.
Adams certainly listened. He hit a layup 44 seconds before halftime to cap that end-of-the half scramble and finished the first 20 minutes with 15 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists. Anderson had nine first-half points and eight rebounds. . . .
UCLA's comeback began immediately, though. It was jump-started by Adams' three-point play (layup and free throw), which caused Adams to pound his chest and seemed to energize the entire team.
In a game where Shabazz had his career high in points and Anderson in points and rebounds, Adams was still the leader. Adams is also the kid most likely to smile and the player who really looks to be enjoying himself. Adams has surprised everyone including his coach.
"He (Adams) is a fantastic basketball player along with his skill set," Howland said of the freshman. "He's really unselfish and a pleasure to coach. He's better than I expected."
Adams does not fit the type of other "fantastic" basketball players under Howland. He goes for the steal first on defense (he had five against Fresno according to gametracker) and he can create offense.
But this is a different Howland team, one that is going to set Howland era records on offense. This is not a team modeled on the current NBA or NCAA which is now more of a defense oriented league. This is a team that runs, likes to play fast and just wants to out score you like the old 1970's ABA team did when they were trying to beat the NBA with more "fun" basketball that was less fundamental. This stat that sums up how this team is playing:
The Bulldogs shot 50 percent in the second half, when they were outscored 52-42.
Are you kidding me? Would anyone predicted this before the season? Glass half full UCLA scored 52 in a half against a team that only gives up fifty-some a game. Glass half empty UCLA gave up 42 in a half to team that only scores fifty-some a game on 38% shooting. UCLA's defense now is "we will out score you."
And while it never should have happen, there is a logic to why Cal Poly beat UCLA, for after this game Howland said:
"Fresno State was very patient," Howland said. "They don't get anything in transition. They run their sets. Those types of teams are tough for us to play against.
"Our guys have to learn. Teams that want to get up and down the court are easier for us to play."
Howland that is a coach's job. Which brings us to the problem. By playing good defense as Fresno State is known for they were not only winning the game but leading much of the first half. The relatively talent-less Fresno State was out playing UCLA midway through the first half and up by double digits. Even when UCLA was scoring they were still trailing late in the first half. And despite the talent on this team, Howland may have admitted a truth (emphasis mine):
Despite scoring on its next six possessions, UCLA still trailed by six near the 3-minute mark.
Yet, baskets from Muhammad, Norman Powell, Adams and Anderson, coupled with efficient defense, sparked a 12-3 spurt to close the half.
"That was really big," Howland said of the run. "We started getting a little better defensively, and it was important for us to have the lead going into halftime.
"... Every game is going to be a dogfight for us."
And that is your roundup for your
ABA Pac 12 Bruins.