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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: The Problem is Defense Not Distractions

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UCLA lost its first game of the year yesterday to Creighton.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina State at UCLA
Prince Ali has been a bright spot so far this season.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The basketball news stories that focus on UCLA on-the-court basketball has a universal theme, the UCLA Bruins can’t defend. It is so bad even the LA Times talks about it in their main article. However, this being the fishwrap they have to have another completely separate story about the China Three. The story rehashes the LaVar Ball v. President Trump twitter feud (something we are not going to touch here as it is meaningless for basketball) and restates the obvious fact:

The disciplinary case is being handled by UCLA’s Office of Student Conduct, which gives dean of students Maria Blandizzi wide latitude to determine the appropriate punishment.

“It’s still [with] Student Conduct … we have no control over that,” Alford said.

And, after quoting Aaron Holiday’s saying it is no excuse, it goes on to discuss Alford’s excuses for the team’s struggles over the loss of the China three:

Still, the suspensions leave an already young Bruins squad shorthanded during a tedious stretch of the games.

“Right now, we’re playing eight guys,” Alford said. “Five didn’t play last year for us, so there’s going to be a learning curve. We’ve got to be patient just as long as we can see some strides.”

The Orange County Register nails the problem in its article:

UCLA looked shaky earlier this season when it squeaked past Georgia Tech and needed overtime to beat Central Arkansas. Facing an even more potent opponent, the same Bruins defense that surrendered 101 points to the Bears struggled to contain Creighton’s versatile offense in a high-scoring affair.

The players know it’s a problem. Prince Ali said:

Similar to what Aaron said, we could have played better defense and we took strides on offense, but it was stops at the end of the game that we needed and didn’t get. That’s why we lost.

How bad was it?

The 100 points given up by the Bruins are the most in any Hall of Fame Classic championship-round game. Creighton held the record with 99 points in 2002.

And, one problem that’s mostly overlooked is that the much smaller Creighton team out-rebounded UCLA:

Creighton, which won the rebounding battle 44-38 led by junior Ronnie Harrell Jr.’s career- and game-high 15 rebounds, carried that momentum into the second half, scoring the first seven points after the break to complete a 14-0 run.

Harrell came to Creighton as a guard and is listed as 6’7” tall. It is crazy that he doubled the rebound total of the taller GG Goloman, Alex Olesinski and Chris Smith in their combined 55 minutes at forward and backup center.

Tonight’s game against Wisconsin will be a different kind of test. Wisconsin will not run with UCLA:

Wisconsin will face No. 23 UCLA in the consolation game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic on Tuesday night at Sprint Center. UCLA lost to Creighton 100-89 in the first semifinal, while Wisconsin lost 70-65 to No. 25 Baylor in the second game.

Wisconsin is known for its slow pace, while UCLA likes to run up and down the floor.

Will UCLA defense be better? I am doubtful of everything but the LA Times and ESPN talking more about the Hangzhou Three and related issues than the current UCLA basketball team. Unfortunately for the Bruins, neither conversation is particularly positive.

Go Bruins.