Tydides in his excellent post game review brings up the point that all Bruins fans should know by now, this team can't play 40 consistent minutes. However, looking at it from the glass half full perspective, it is winning and can play well in stretches. UCLA is now on its way to reestablishing itself in the Pac-10 and if it can win its next two at home against Cal and Stanford, UCLA will be on its way to the goal of the Big Dance.
While most of the reviews focus on players (and I will get to that below) there is one stat that I think sums up why we won yesterday's Oregon game and why we were losing in the first half:
Key stat: UCLA scored 15 second-chance points in the second half, after none in the first half.
UCLA inexplicably allowed Oregon to pull down nine offensive rebounds in the first half.
Oregon does not have any true bigs and they out rebounded us in the first half. Starting late in the first and into the second, we turned it around and killed them on the boards and won the game. Rebounding, like defense, is often a product of effort. When we are playing hard, with our size and talent, we win the battle of the boards. When we are not, we can lose to a team without any true 4 or 5s.
But UCLA beat Oregon and won the battle of the boards by going small. This meant not playing Brendan Lane and making Honeycutt the four. With UCLA down 25-13, Honeycutt was 0-3, 2 TOs, 1 assist, and 1 rebound. Playing primarily 4 for the test of the game he had 10 rebounds and went 3-7. Tyler is much more comfortable playing 4 it seems, especially on Defense. It really let's him rebound.
But the hero of the game had to be none other than Jerime Anderson:
"Jerime Anderson was the player of the game," coach Ben Howland said. "He came in and really did a great job for us offensively settling us down and making passes and making plays. That was Jerime’s best game as a Bruin in a huge game today."
Anderson has been solid in recent games, making nine of 13 shots over his last three games, including five of seven three-pointers. The junior guard has been maligned for poor play during much of his UCLA career, but appears on the verge of a major breakthrough.
"There’s always going to be haters and there’s always going to be naysayers even after tonight’s game, there’s still probably people out there saying stuff," Anderson said. "It’s part of life and it’s part of basketball. It’s part of this culture. So I just take it as I go and I just keep working hard and trying to get better."
As I have been saying for a while, Jerime is a different player as a 2. Without having to be the PG, he is playing smart. Oregon would collapse on Smith and Anderson would calmly hit the wide open three. He also is becoming adept at feeding the post from the wing. Anderson matched his career high set in last year's final game against Cal but he is a different player than last year. For in that game Anderson hit similar shots and looked good on offense but was completely destroyed on defense. Against Oregon's lesser talents Anderson was solid on defense, while last year he was arguably UCLA worst defender. Now Anderson is usually in the right spot and working hard on defense.
If Anderson was the player of the game, Malcolm Lee was the player of the weekend. Malcolm did an amazing job on defense against OSU Thursday. He held Jared Cunningham to 5 points on 1-9 of shooting. Against a better defensive team (USC) Cunningham had 24 on Saturday to lead OSU over USC.
On Saturday with no tough defensive assignment, Malcolm Lee was our leading scorer and added 6 rebounds. Lee is truly a team player. He is a Ben Ball Warrior.
Also give credit to CBH. He managed Nelson and Smith minutes well Thursday night to have them in and ready at the end of the game. Saturday, he switched to a small lineup that took the game away from Oregon. Also, Peggysue69 loves to point out that most of our players are only sophomores or freshmen. When you look at Anderson's improvement into a contributing player after two rough years, her point seems to have some merit.
Moving on to another point: Smith's technical foul was explained:
Smith picked up a technical foul with 1:50 remaining Saturday after game officials thought he was taunting a Ducks player.
"He said 'Let's go!' and he was looking at one of the players and the referee took it as, you know, trying to incite the opponent," Howland said. "He didn't say cuss words. He was just excited." . . .
"I didn't say anything to the player," Smith said. "It was just aggression and I got the rebound and I was just like, 'Let's go.' And I think the ref called it because I was kind of just yelling and (the official) didn't really hear what I said.
"And it was kind of directed at the player a little bit."
While I am not a fan of the call it is hard to argue with a call against a 300+ pound guy screaming "at the player", even if it was only a little bit, for being intimidating. Smith will get less room on this kind of thing after his earlier comments.
Unlike the start of this article, something different did happen on Saturday. We won without Reeves Nelson. Too often this year, UCLA's wins and losses have been dependent on Reeves Nelson. Reeves picked up 3 fouls in the first half and did little in the second except spell Smith. It is important for the team to win without Reeves and it may be important to Reeves as well.
Also, I think we have learned in the last three games, UCLA needs Smith or Nelson on the court at a time but not necessarily both of them at once. In fact it may even be better for Smith to play without Reeves to leave him alone down low. TH is more comfortable as a 4 as well, which is where he had his success last year. As a 3 he disappears at times as a 4 his rebounding skills come through, even though he seems too skinny. With the exception of USC and other teams with two good bigs, it may be worth considering playing more three guard lineups with Reeves in effect a backup 4 and 5.
CBH said the OSU game was a turning point. Let's hope he was right and let's sweep the NorCal teams next week. Today the glass is half full, winning does that doesn't it?