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UCLA vs. WSU Basketball Notes: Will Howland Get Zoned Out Again?

Yesterday I was unable to post a roundup but I think Bellerophon's post was perfect on the big picture.

Turning to the smaller picture, and looking at Thursday's game, the players played their hearts out and should have won. Yes, if the referees were decent we win but that was not why UCLA lost. We lost because of three reasons, all of which come back, to some extent to Coach Ben Howland, and Howland, to his credit, admits the loss is on him :

I was really proud of the way our team played in a difficult environment. It was just disappointing to lose this after preparing so hard in practice. I thought Josh played terrific today. But our defense - they shot 52% - and our inability to attack to zone in the last five minutes. We got a little discombobulated; we had a couple of turnovers. We didn't execute some things down the stretch offensively, which starts with me.

Let's briefly break this down.

1. Josh Smith dominated the game and was on a roll. Lorenzo Romar's poorly fundamental coached players couldn't even stop Smith with double teams. Yet when they went full court press and zone, UCLA was lost. As in losses in the Oregon weekend, the press hurt the UCLA offense but this time the zone was decisive. ESPN's Dan Dakich noted the SPTRs but he also noted how UCLA never moved someone to the top of the free throw line into the hole in the Washington zone.

Smith finished with a game-high 24 points as well as nine rebounds as he left the Huskies nearly helpless inside to stop him. The only real answer was a 2-3 zone to quiet the rest of the Bruins, as well as preserve Aziz N'Diaye, who picked up a third foul early in the second half and a fourth with eight minutes to go.

That is on Howland.

Let's talk about the other two after the jump.

2. Next, CBH had a timeout left at the end of the game. I love Norman Powell but I have to believe he was the fifth option to shoot on that last play. Something like this was probably the options: Josh inside, Josh passing to Wear flashing to the basket, inside-out to Zeek for a 3, inside-out to Anderson, and then Powell. But the thing is we had a timeout to call a play. Washington is not well coached so a well designed play would likely resulted in a good shot.

Coach Ben Howland had a timeout, but chose not to use it when Ross missed a jumper with 26 seconds left.

The Bruins had plenty of time to get a good shot, but Washington denied everything. Freshman guard Norman Powell drove right around Darnell Gant, but was cut off by Aziz N'Diaye who came over to help. Powell pulled up for a mid-range jumper that was contested by Gant.

The shot rattled around the rim. Ross, who stands 6-6, pushed Smith beneath the rim and Gaddy, who stands 6-3, buried 6-10 David Wear beneath the glass. Smith was still able to get his hands on the loose ball before N'Diaye secured the rebound.

"We were trying to get something inside, something to the opposite side and nothing presented itself," Howland said. "It actually wasn't that bad of a shot, he (Norman Powell) kind of fell away a little bit, but it wasn't a terrible shot."

Maybe not terrible, but it wasn't the first, second or third option.

Again, if Smith missed the shot, fine. If Zeek missed the wide open three, fine. But to keep the timeout and not use it, that is CBH's fault.

3. Briefly, when teams shoot over 50% against us don't you think we should try zone? This is a team of weak athletes, zone has to help right? Again, that falls on Howland.

Now, turning to today's game against the Cougars. First, CBH promises the Bruins will be ready for the zone tonight, at least by the other team:

The Bruins (12-10, 5-5 Pacific-12 Conference) can expect to face a similar defense this afternoon when they take on Washington State in Pullman.

"They play plenty of zone, so we're going to have to attack that better than we did," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "Josh really played well, but it was our inability to attack the zone in the last five minutes (that cost the game)."

Howland assures his team will be mentally ready and over Thursday's heartbreaking loss:

"I don't have any worries about our guys packing it in," he said.

"We're really disappointed, but we'll get by this. I don't sense anything like that."

The numbers do add up to big worries for UCLA. UCLA has not won a game outside of Southern California this year and WSU beat Cal and Stanford at home:

Washington State (12-10, 4-6) is 9-1 [at home] this season, including a 53-46 win Thursday night over the USC Trojans. The Bruins have won five straight games against the Cougars, and are 45-11 all-time on the road at Washington State. In their last meeting at Pullman, UCLA defeated WSU 58-54 in overtime on March 5, 2011.

UCLA is also without Travis Wear. Travis has had a hard luck season.

UCLA center Travis Wear suffered a high ankle sprain Thursday night against Washington and is unlikely to play Saturday at Washington State, coach Ben Howland said. . . .

Wear, a 6-foot-10 sophomore who transferred from North Carolina, missed two games earlier this season when he had to spend the night in a hospital after a cut on his foot became infected. He originally cut his foot during a snorkeling mishap after the Maui Invitational in November. Wear also had two teeth knocked out Nov. 28 against Pepperdine, but he did not miss any games because of that.

That said UCLA has won 5 straight in Pullman. That streak should continue as Faisal Aden, the Cougars' best outside scorer is out for the year. Brock Motum is still a force:

  • Junior Brock Motum leads the team and ranks third in the Pac-12 with 16.8 points per game...he's scored in double figures in 20 of the team's 22 games.
  • Motum also ranks fourth in the league and 24th in the nation in field goal percentage (.576/133-for-231) and sixth in rebounding in the league with 6.6 rebounds a game. The junior is the only player in the Pac-12 to rank in the top-nine in both scoring and field goal percentage.
  • Motum is top in the conference in league games only with 20.0 points per game and is also tied for sixth with 6.8 rebounds per Pac-12 outing...he is also ranked fifth in league field goal percentage with a .595 (69-for-116) clip.

But this is a game the Bruins should win as they have for the last five years, even without Travis.

Go Bruins.