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UCLA Hoops Roundup: "Bruin Block Party"

I am not sure how much we can take directly from yesterday's win.  Oregon State is a bad team with a lousy coach.  As the Trojan Times never-give-UCLA-credit writer Ben Bloch leads with the goofiness at the end with the walk-ons and notes the following:

UCLA won a game in which it committed 26 turnovers, gave up 24 offensive rebounds and yielded 31 more shot attempts to its opponent than it took. Those numbers were offset by the Bruins' shooting 48.7% to Oregon State's 32.9% and attempting 20 more free throws than the Beavers (9-15, 4-9).

As far as Howland was concerned, the statistic that mattered most was that his team improved to 17-0 this season in games in which it has held at least a 10-point lead.

"I would like to keep that streak going," Howland said.

UCLA's 13th consecutive victory over Oregon State — the longest active streak by a Pac-10 team over a conference rival — appeared to be a given when the Bruins raced to a 24-6 lead thanks to suffocating defense and some dazzling plays.

I think there were a lot more positives than that to the game but there is a caveat that this is probably the worst offensive team we have played this year, certainly this far along in the season.  (Princeton offense, no way.  CHP press hard and hope for the best offense, maybe.)  On the other hand, UCLA's defense was very good for most of the game and while the gaudy block statistics may be in part due to Oregon State not even understanding the concept of a shot fake, the Bruins are definitely playing good defense recently.

With Tyler Honeycutt looking like a human fly-swatter, Howland and the Bruins eventually breathed easy. Honeycutt had eight blocks, the most for the Bruins since Jelani McCoy had 11 in December of 1995, to go along with nine points, five rebounds and five assists but seven turnovers. UCLA tied a school record with 16 blocks and simply denied the Beavers time after time. . . .

The Bruins jumped to a scorching start Saturday. They held Oregon State to 2-of-16 shooting in the early going, and it looked like UCLA finally was turning over a new leaf.

They were overpowering the Beavers with a frustrating perimeter defense that forced poor shot selection and drained the shot clock.

This game never felt like it was in doubt.  While Honeycutt's gaudy numbers were interesting, it was nice to see Brendan Lane have a nice game under difficult circumstances:

He didn't expect to play much Saturday, but Howland called his number early and Lane delivered. He finished with five points and six rebounds in only 10 minutes. It was the most he has played since getting 12 minutes at Arizona on Jan. 27, his most points since he had seven Jan. 20 against California and his most rebounds since he got seven against Washington on Dec. 31.

"When I got in there I just wanted to play hard and today just felt good," Lane said. "I was just trying to play aggressive and hard and get rebounds, just do whatever I could."

Lane was a key member of UCLA's rotation early in the season. He averaged 23.2 minutes over the first 15 games, but has production started to taper and his playing time decreased to only 10.1 per game over the last nine games.

. . .
"The funeral really puts everything in perspective," he said. "It really makes you appreciate what you have. Just being able to play this game, I knew coming out here I have to play hard every game. Don’t worry about other stuff. Definitely getting away mentally helped me be more focuser and relaxed."

While it was nice for Lane to have a good game even against lesser competition, long term the continued development of Malcolm Lee is a key to this team's future.  There is a good article with some interesting quotes about Lee that I cannot do justice here in excerpting.  It begins with Howland praising Lee's defense yet again after a game (sometimes repetition is good to hear) and details how Jared Cunningham (Lee's man) went 4 of 15 from the field.  The article also notes how Lee led the Bruins in scoring again, for the ninth time this year.  Hmm best defender and leading scorer, that makes me think of. . .

[On his defense] "When I would go into a game as a freshman, it usually was to guard a scorer," said Lee, who is following in the quick moving, talented footsteps of at least three of Howland's better perimeter defenders -- Cedric Bozeman, Arron Afflalo and Russell Westbrook.

"Sometimes (Coach) tells me about Ced and how he would close out his man on a drive," Lee said. "He likes to talk about Arron and Russell, and Alfred Aboya and Luc (Mbah a Moute). He compares me to Arron sometimes." . . .

[On his offense] "I wanted to be more aggressive," he said. "Not settle for jumpers.  "

I've always been more of a slasher and mid-range jump shooter. I wanted to get back to that."

While it was not quite the "breezer" CBH wanted it was close and the Bruins continue to take care of business.  A final note that was discussed in the articles but quite frankly a better job was done here by the posters on BN.  The last 58 seconds where the Bruins emptied the bench, the walk-ons came on and Oregon State's first team kept pressing forcing CBH to put our starters back in. 

LVBruin makes a good point when he wrote: "I think that the onus is on the losing team to decide when to stop playing." Gen2Bruin1987 argues the other side: "I think the classiest thing that Robinson could have done was empty his bench when CBH brought out the walk-ons."  And insomniacslounge may have summed it up best:

"Yeah, it was interesting that he left in his 1st team and still pressed- giving the impression that he was playing to win. But then once the starters were back in and eventually got the ball across the halfcourt line, he elected not to foul." 

In any case it was strange and maybe an appropriate ending to a game that was never in doubt but full of statistical oddities. 

As Tydides noted:

It's difficult to really draw any conclusions from a game like this against a bad team like OSU. What we do know is that we've now cleared our schedule of most of the "easy" games, and the final six conference games will go a long way in showing us what this team really is capable of.

Bruins had a mini-party on Saturday, one they have earned.  Good job and keep it up, especially on defense.

Go Bruins!