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UCLA Basketball Chokes on the Beavers Wood Chips

UCLA has talent. Oregon State has a coach. Guess which team won last night.

Bryce helped lead UCLA back as a 2 guard.  Bryce as point guard led to 19 points as a team in the first half.
Bryce helped lead UCLA back as a 2 guard. Bryce as point guard led to 19 points as a team in the first half.
Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Usually the day after a game I do a "news roundup" of the stories.  I could have done one but the LA Times (or fishwrap) thinks so little of this team, they have it covered by an Intern.  The Intern stipend does not cover travel out of state and they did not even send a reporter to UCLA's 66 to 55 loss at Oregon State.

That is how far UCLA Basketball has fallen. It easy to figure out why.  Coaching and in particular how he uses one player.

But some other points before we get there.

10. What is true now: UCLA can't beat good defensive teams

UCLA's losses from Kentucky to Oregon State have all come to team's that are committed to defense.  While Kentucky has incredible talent, on the other end of the scale Oregon State has one, maybe two players that could make UCLA's first seven.  Yet no one could question they were the better team last night.  Oregon's commitment to defense was impressive.

As Steve Alford says:

"It's going to be hard winning in someone else's building shooting 30%," UCLA Coach Steve Alford said.

9.  What Could Be True Saturday: A Win.

Oregon is the exact opposite of Oregon State.  Oregon wants the game fast and wants to score.  They Rank 285th in points per game given up but are actually better than UCLA in field goal percentage defense ranking 79 to UCLA 93.

However, Oregon's approach should help UCLA.  UCLA should be able to score and win.

8.  What is true now:  UCLA lost to Oregon State by failing to go inside-out.

UCLA bigs shot 9-19 or 47%

UCLA guards shot 10-43 or 23%

UCLA needs to have the bigs shoot more.

7.  What could be: UCLA has found its sixth man or better.

While it won't work against every team, a solution to some of the woes is here.  Gyrgory Goloman.  The lineup of Norman Powell, Bryce Alford, Kevon Looney, GG, and Thomas Welsh was arguably UCLA's best last night.  It is not that GG has all the answers but GG plays smart and within himself.  He makes the team better.  The play of the game for UCLA was a steal by GG, followed by a drive and dunk.  GG had four steals last night. Meanwhile Isaac Hamilton went 0-10.

6.  What is true: Kevon Looney Needs to be the Focus

Kevon needs to assert himself more and seems at times to disappear.  That is in part the lack of a point guard to get him the ball. It is also coaching and not using your best player by putting in the middle of a zone or as a high post.

Anyone who doubts how important Kevon is to this team needs to look no further than this stat: in the 8 games that Kevon has had four or more fouls, UCLA is 1-7. The only win came at Just SC.  Kevon being on the court makes the difference but you still get the feeling that he should have the ball a lot more.

5. What could be: UCLA has a dominant a PAC 12 Center.

Thomas Welsh played well last night and had one of his better games.  That said Thomas Welsh is not Tony Parker.  Tony with his size and bulk changes the game with a true post presence.  It is harder to run inside-out without Tony.  Tony changes the game on defense by filling up the lane.

I am not willing to say Parker's absence was the difference but Parker's absence certainly hurt.  I really think Tony will be back Saturday and hopefully lead to a better result.

4.  What is true: Hero Ball reared its ugly head again last night.

Watching the game initially I thought Norman Powell was playing "Hero Ball" and trying to take the game over by himself in the second half.  Steve sat him for a longer spell than you would expect in the half.  That does not explain Norman's play accurately.  He was not trying to play hero ball as I explain in 3 below.

However, UCLA did have a key example of hero ball.  UCLA had just come back to within 2 with 3:50 left  (later it was 3 as a GG three was ruled a 2 after a timeout review).  Bryce dribbled down the court and promptly shot a 25 footer.  It was not in the flow of the offense.  It was just terrible.

In the first half after he air balled a three, Steve benched Bryce. This time there was nothing he could or would do.  UCLA never was that close again and it is tragic that it that the run was wasted on such a terrible shot.

3.  What could be: Norman Powell is a true basketball warrior

Norman Powell deserves some kind of special award for all he has gone through during his UCLA career.  He has always played hard and given his all.  He has almost always been misused.  To Howland he was an afterthought as a three point shooter.  Last year he was the defensive specialist forced to cover the other team's best player 1-3 and often the point guard.

Last night in the second half he was on ball at point.  Now Powell forced his way into the lane and put up some bad shots during this stretch.  He also finished with a poor night shooting.  But he stepped up and did his best at point to fill a void.

However, that is not all he did.  To replace Tony Parker's defense rebounding presence, UCLA turned not to Welsh who thinks shot block first or GG who did not get a rebound but to Powell.  Powell had 10 rebounds and finished with his career first double-double.

Coaches may use and abuse Powell but fans should really respect and tip their hat to Norman Powell who does whatever he is asked with an all-out effort.

2.  What is true: Bryce playing point hurts . . . Bryce.

Bryce played point the whole first half and finished 1-6 (1-5 from three), 2 assists and 3 turnovers.  He looked at times terrible.  UCLA only scored 19 points.  Part of that was poor shooting.  A bigger part was Bryce is not a point guard.  Bryce may have even been pulled for his play after an ugly air ball miss.

While UCLA was missing Tony Parker last night, it is also missing a point guard.

1. What Could be:  Bryce showed again he can shoot.

Bryce can play . . . as a two guard

Bryce game was so much better in the second half when he was off the ball more.  He even passed better.  The simple reason is Bryce as a two guard you have to respect his outside shooting and in a zone come out on him.  This makes it easier for him to drive or get an open shot if the defense sags to help.

On ball Bryce is easy.  Stick to him and dare him to drive and watch the chaos that ensues.  Don't let him shoot outside.

This is obvious to everyone.  Even Steve seems to get it, some of the time or when we are desperate.  But most of the time he does not.  Further, Bryce had the worst shot of the game on a shot no other player on the team would even take.

UCLA failures this seasons and the biggest reason UCLA basketball has fallen so far is on Bryce.  But not Bryce the player but rather Steve the father use of his son Bryce as something he is not.  UCLA should have recruited a point guard for Bryce is not a point guard.  Steve's failure to discipline Bryce for those game losing shots that no one on the team should be taking let alone the coach's son is another reason.  Against good defensive teams these problems are exposed.  This team has talent but it is not used correctly, starting with Bryce.

Go Bruins!