Basketball Roundup for WSU Game: Tale of Two Big Men in a Zone

Josh Smith completed his Washington weekend in fine style as the most dominate player in two games. For the weekend Smith shot 17-22 and 9-13 from the charity stripe. He was truly dominant. The crowd in both places was relentless on him but Smith was again the unstoppable force against Washington State:

[Josh Smith said the boos:] "It just motivates me to shut them up."

Smith, virtually unstoppable down low, was an 8-for-9 shooter from the field in his customary role as a key reserve. He played only 22 minutes before fouling out with 1:42 remaining, but the damage was done.

"He just did a great job of attacking the basket," teammate David Wear said.

"We tried everything (to stop Smith); he's pretty effective," WSU star Brock Motum said.

But UCLA was in danger of losing again because the Cougars' Brock Motum was doing even more damage until the Bruins, out of desperation, went zone:

"Motum is a great player," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "And we knew that. He had 34 two games ago, 26 against USC. He's one of the better players in the conference."

The Bruins were down, 34-29, at the half, due in part to Motum. But they dropped into a zone, and that was the difference.

"Our zone defense really helped us today," Howland said. "[Washington State was] trying to screen high. Jerime [Anderson] did a good job fighting over the top of those screens. ... Both their bigs, Motum and [Abe] Lodwick, are such good perimeter shooters it's hard to match up."

It would be nice if CBH used zone more often. This game he went zone out of desperation. First off was the obvious reason that the triple threat (from three, driving, and posting up) Motum was too much for anyone on UCLA to match up with. Before anyone says this shows why Stover, who was schooled by Motum and lost his cool at one point, does not play more: keep in mind Stover is a good post defender and a great help defender. Motum is more like Derrick Williams (a big who can do it all and no, he is not that good, just more like the Williams mold) and UCLA had no one who could handle all three, a big who could hit the three, post, and drive.

This is where Reeves Nelson would help on defense as he could stop a Motum. But what was interesting is that CBH tried everything possible before going to zone. At one point he had UCLA's least athletic player, Jerime Anderson, covering WSU's starting power forward Abe Lodwick and Josh Smith covering a guard (I think it was Ladd). The reason was he did not want Smith drug outside by the three point shooting Lodwick while the Cougars' third guard was not a good three shooter.

It didn't work. Out of desperation he went zone. And it won the game for UCLA:

UCLA switched to a zone defense with about 15 minutes to play and pretty much took over the game after that. Washington State led, 40-38 at the time of the switch and extended it to 45-39 shortly thereafter, but struggled against the zone the rest of the way.

The Bruins held Washington State to only four field goals over the final 11:30 -- including the two desperation 3-pointers by Moore at the end of the game. Washington State shot 45.5 percent in the first half, but were 10-of-33 (30 percent) in the second half when UCLA played mostly zone.

One of Moore's three pointers banked in and the other I think we were in man-to-man as Jones followed him all the way down the court. But more importantly was how the zone stopped Motum, a player any individual player on UCLA was powerless to stop:

STAT OF THE GAME: Washington State leading scorer Brock Motum was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half and early in the second, but seemed to be most affected by UCLA's switch to a zone.

Motum finished with 25 points, but scored only six in the second half -- two coming when he was credited with a basket after Lamb accidentally tipped a ball in for the Cougars. Motum made 9-of-15 shots for the game, but was 2-of-7 against the zone and did not score in the final 14 minutes of the game.

Zone fits UCLA in another way: UCLA has become good at forcing turnovers and getting steals. Unfortunately this often means when you fail the other team scores. Lamb had 4 steals against Washington and Anderson had 4 against WSU. In a zone the other players are better positioned to help if you fail on your gamble.

The Cougars outrebounded the Bruins 37-30, but UCLA took advantage of sloppy play by the Cougars, outscoring them 18-3 off turnovers.

UCLA got its first road win outside Southern California over a Division I team. However, as a result of it taking this long UCLA is tied for sixth and there is no way they can win the Pac-12 regular season title. And to have any chance to win the Pac-12 tournament they will need to finish in the top four for only the top four seeds get a bye, everyone else would have to win four games in four days. And with your starting guards are playing 37 and 36 minutes per game like Jones and Anderson did last night that is not going to work (of course it helps if you play zone some as that is easier for stamina).

As CBH said:

The win gave the Bruins a split in Washington for the week, and Howland said while he wanted to leave with two wins, getting at least one was vital.

"I would have liked to be 2-0, and I felt we had a good opportunity to do that, but it's important for us to get this win on the road," he said. "And we needed it desperately. We're going on a real tough stretch here."

Go Bruins.

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