Let's get a few things out of the way first. LMU is not a good team. As DCBruins mentioned in his preview, they were missing their best player, and even with him, they would still be regarded as a middling WCC team. Meanwhile, LMU celebrates their first win over the Bruins since FDR was President, and they deserved it. Make no mistake: LMU was the better team tonight. The 69-58 final score was very much reflective of the way both teams played.
Every demon that has haunted the Bruins over the past couple of years seemed to come out all at once, and the Lions took advantage of it all. Whether it was the pathetic token defense at the point guard position, mostly from Lazeric Jones, or lack of interior defensive awareness leading to easy and uncontested opportunities inside, or slow rotation and no anticipation on the perimeter, the Bruins put on an anti-defensive clinic with the exception of a few blocks by Joshua Smith.
Analyzing this putrid performance, it has to start with the play of Zeek. For a guy who talked about wanting to lead the conference in assists this year, he did a lot to prove otherwise. He missed his first ten shots and didn't scratch the score sheet until 30 minutes into the game, where he finally made a layup on a drive that he could have easily turned the ball over on (again). He completely abdicated his point guard duties on both ends of the floor, where his counterpart Anthony Ireland abused him on the inside and on the perimeter for 21 points. Zeek did absolutely nothing well tonight, and while it's never supposed to be the fault of one person for a loss in a team game, Zeek came as close as anyone ever has to disproving that.
The rest of the team surely could have done a lot of things better as well. Off the top of my head, Lamb's recognition of how LMU was playing Josh Smith with double and triple teams was terrible, and the rest of the team appeared to join him in making up their mind to force the ball inside no matter the situation. The one time we did the smart thing and changed the angle of the entry pass by getting it to a Wear on the wing, it led to an easy bucket for Smith. Why this was such a difficult concept for this team to figure out in this game is beyond me.
We saw Tyler Lamb, Norman Powell, and De'End Parker in at the 2 spot at times, and while all three did at least display some positives, more was required tonight to make up for Zeek's deficiencies, especially from Lamb.
David and Travis Wear did appear to have a good thing going at the start, single handedly keeping the Bruins in the game in the first half with 20 points combined and displaying offensive range that will be crucial going forward, but they also contributed to the lack of defensive awareness mentioned earlier on the interior. Close range passes for LMU almost always ended up as a layup right in the shadow of one of the twins. It also didn't help that they disappeared offensively after halftime.
Josh Smith looked like Josh Smith, and that's generally a good thing, but not tonight. More may have been required from our off guard spot, but that goes double for Smith, who we will undoubtedly be leaning on this year, and the lack of conditioning once again appears to be an issue. I don't take as much stock in the fouls he picked up because frankly I felt they were kind of weak, but we simply need more from a guy of his talent. Enough of playing below the rim and going up soft. Smith (and the Wears) need to go up strong on the interior and earn those fouls and get aggressive. If Josh can't do that, then yes, it is time to commit to conditioning and slim down so that throwing it down is second nature.
All the numbers and analysis still boil down to a simple truth: This was an unequivocal disaster for Ben Howland's program. Playing in front of an already empty Sports Arena, we can only imagine the tough sell this is going to become for Donut Dan from here on out. An empty Rose Bowl and an empty home basketball arena should a fired Athletic Director make. Dan should do the right thing, if he still cares for this school, his alma mater, at all, and resign immediately.
As for the team, it's time to pick up the pieces, and there are a lot of pieces after this dismantling. Howland needs to fix this mess, and fix whatever is wrong with Zeek. Maybe the return of Jerime Anderson will bring a little legitimacy back to the point guard position. Whatever he needs to do, he needs to do it fast. Middle Tennessee State is coming up next Tuesday, and from what I've seen, it's going to be a tough game.