We have been saying for awhile during the 10 game win streak that the Ben Howland coached UCLA team was good not great. And they got beat Saturday by a good but not great team without a star. Put it another way Norman Powell's dunk made SportsCenter's top ten and Kyle Anderson's 40 foot bounce pass was called by the announcer a "next level play" that only a handful of college players can make. UCLA, unlike Oregon, has some stars or potential stars. So let's lead this roundup with Bill Walton commenting on UCLA generally:
"What should be an absolute unbelievable game will be ruined by the style of the UCLA basketball team who loves to do nothing but call timeouts and run plays.
"Come on, basketball is like music," Walton exclaimed while catering his remarks to the business audience. "Your entrepreneurs out there in the world are not sitting there holding people back. They are chasing it, and you got that with John Wooden basketball, up and down, never calling a timeout, never calling a play."
Why Walton remains a king of hyperbole, he is a true Bruin who has a point. It seems likely that Oregon Coach Dana Altman out coached Ben Howland. While most, including Ben Howland are focusing on the rebounding as the difference in the game, in my opinion it was this:
- UCLA couldn't contend with the Ducks' various defensive looks in the second half, from a full-court press to a zone. The Bruins shot 55 percent in the first half when they were able to dictate the pace, but that fell to just under 38 percent when Oregon bogged the game down. Through 11-plus minutes after the break, through part of which the Ducks scored eight unanswered points, the two teams combined for just six field goals.
"They did a great job keeping us uncomfortable," Wear said.
Every opposing coach should zone UCLA. It takes away the advantage of forcing bigs to cover Anderson or Travis Wear outside. While most are focusing on the rebounding, I think it was Altman who won this game by out coaching Ben.
Of course the rebounding did contribute heavily.
"We talked about what our Achilles' heel has been for us and could change the most for us," Howland said, "and again, today, we got outrebounded by nine (40-31)."
That discrepancy was most noticeable on the offensive glass, as Oregon nearly doubled the Bruins' output in that category (13-7). Meanwhile, UCLA managed just two second-chance points - both after the Ducks had basically locked up the victory.
Early on, with Oregon firing out to a quick lead, the Bruins even gave up four offensive rebounds on a single possession - a mistake Howland said was amplified when at least two UCLA players were already sprinting past halfcourt before any Bruin had actually pulled down a rebound. The sequence lasted a full minute before freshman Kyle Anderson knocked the ball loose.
. . .
That difference in effort reared its ugly head in the second half, as the Ducks finally started to knock down shots, especially in the paint. Led by big men Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods, who combined for 30 points, Oregon continued to manhandle UCLA's undersized post presence, scoring 20 points in the paint in the second half to a measly six for the Bruins. In all, the Ducks shot 22.5 percent better from the field in the final 20 minutes.
One possible solution to this is play Tony Parker more. Of course Howland said that in the post game interview but who cares what he says; it is what he does that matters. UCLA's interior weakness on Defense was the another difference in the game.
Player of the game: [Oregon Center]Woods scored 12 of his 18 points in the second half, including dunks on back-to-back possessions that gave the Ducks a 70-61 lead with 1:07 to play.
Stat of the game: UCLA, the conference leader in field goal percentage at 47.7 percent entering the game, shot only 37.9 percent in the second half. (The Bruins shot 55.2 percent in the first half.)
What it means: Oregon, with victories over Arizona and UCLA, is now the early favorite to win the Pac-12 title. UCLA must rebound at Arizona and Arizona State next week to remain in the conference title race.
One note of interest to die-hard fans is the player who did play a different amount of time: Shabazz Muhammad. Howland said it was not a big deal that Shabazz did not start.
Things didn't start well. Freshman Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA's leading scorer, was held out for the first five minutes after being late to Friday's practice. It was a series of unfortunate events, Howland said.
"He had class at 9 a.m., he had his car towed and had to go run his car down after parking in the wrong spot," Howland said. "He was tired. He was asleep. It's no big deal."
Muhammad did provide some first-half traction, scoring 10 of UCLA's last 12 points. Still, though the Bruins shot 55% and Oregon 38%, UCLA's halftime lead was only 40-37.
So what does the game mean?
The loss will set the UCLA Bruins back only one game in the Pac-12 standings, but it did quite a bit more damage in the court of public opinion.
. . .Only minutes after the 10-game win streak ended it became clear that the run had been mostly a mirage padded with victories over teams that would need a boost to enter the world of mediocrity. Even UCLA victim Missouri, an 83-52 loser to Florida on Saturday, seems like a marginal team after losing two of its past three.
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It's not going to get any easier. UCLA's next game is at No. 7 Arizona, which leads the conference in rebounding margin. Not only that, it marks gut-check time for the Bruins.
A bounce back win in a difficult environment will show that the Bruins still have the chops to make some noise in the conference and perhaps in the NCAA tournament come March. A loss, and the Bruins will be dismissed as also-rans in a conference that isn't all that great to begin with.
If you have been reading Bruins Nation for awhile, we have been saying the Bruins are a likely tournament team. But here is the thing, what UCLA fan is going to be happy with A tournament win or worse just making the tournament. Let me close by some surprisingly good comments from Jack Wang, emphasis mine.
After losing to Oregon on Saturday, UCLA is clearly just a good team, not a great one. With Arizona and Arizona State coming up, the Bruins will have to stopgap its flaws to keep its conference title hopes alive.
So Bruin fans, is making the tournament enough to keep Ben Howland? We don't think so and I humbly submit that Bruin fans should all agree with Bill Walton that UCLA deserves better.