UCLA Men's Basketball vs. McNeese State
As DC Bruins mentioned in his preview yesterday, McNeese State is not a good team. That said, the Cowboys lost by only 11 in their season-opener against then 21st-ranked LSU. Could the Cowboys be better than advertised?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. McNeese State lost by 29 to #8 Oklahoma before losing by 45 to Indiana. The Cowboys have had trouble scoring even against weak defenses, and are shooting less than 40% from the field and less than 30% from behind the arc. The only place where the Cowboys have shot the ball well from is the charity stripe, but even then, they aren't particularly good at drawing fouls.
According to the official preview from McNeese State, Cowboys head coach Dave Simmons has a plan to try to keep his team in the game (emphasis added):
"The three we've played so far (money games), we haven't played as well as I'd have liked us to play," said head coach Dave Simmons. "I want us to play really well in this last game here. They're coming off a tough loss to North Carolina but we're looking very forward to playing this game."
In all three of the previous games against big opponents, one thing was common among all three - scoring droughts. The Cowboys hung tough through the first 10 minutes in every game but then went flat from the field and by the time the drought was done, the game was already out of hand.
"We have to make sure we get shots off, some second chance shots, and not turn it over," said Simmons. "The games we've played, we've played pretty steady for 10-12 minutes but then go into a lapse the next 10 minutes of the half and get down by a big deficit.
"Here we're going to try to control the first 10 minutes of the game and see where we are and maybe take some of the clock out of the game."
Oh well. For those of you who were hoping to see UCLA score 100+ in a game of uptempo basketball in lieu of a competitive game, you are likely out of luck.
However, this game will give Steve Alford the opportunity to instruct his team to get the ball to UCLA's big men. Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh have a significant size advantage over the pair of 6'7" McNeese State forwards who will try to contain them. If the Bruins don't take advantage of their tremendous size advantage inside tonight, then I have to question Steve Alford's ability to get his team to play smart, fundamentally sound basketball.
The McNeese State official site has a brief rundown on the Cowboy's starting five:
Attempting to tame [Parker and Welsh] will be McNeese's Craig McFerrin (9.6 ppg), who is third in the Southland Conference in rebounding with a 7.6 average, and Tevin Jackson who is averaging 14 points and five rebounds the last two games.
[Guards] Jamaya Burr (14.8 ppg, 2.3 apg), Jarren Greenwood (7.8 ppg, 2.1 apg), and Lance Potier (7.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg) are expected to make up the starting five for the Cowboys.
As DC mentions in his preview, Steve Alford should take advantage of the opportunity to give extended playing time to players like Jonah Bolden, Alex Olesinski, Prince Ali (if healthy), Ikenna Okwarabizie, and Noah Allen. In the past, Alford has made excuses for players who are "rusty" after periods of not playing in competitive games (e.g., Isaac Hamilton and Jonah Bolden after sitting out a year). The same logic applies to his bench players. If he expects them to step in and perform well when needed, then he has to given them as much playing time as possible when he has the luxury of playing against a weak opponent.
In that respect, Alford's record isn't encouraging. In a 77-45 blowout win against CSUN, Alford managed to find only 17 minutes for Jonah Bolden, 16 minutes for Alex Olesinski, 6 minutes for Noah Allen, and 2 minutes for Ikenna Okwarabizie. In a game that the Bruins led by 17 at the half, Bryce Alford still played over 30 minutes. In my opinion, that's pretty poor roster management.
I'll measure UCLA's success tonight not by the final score, but by the quality of the performance and the extent to which Steve Alford gives his reserves meaningful minutes. If Isaac Hamilton or Bryce Alford play 30+ minutes against the Cowboys, it will represent a warning sign as the Bruins head into conference play.
UCLA Women's Basketball
The 19th-ranked Bruins lost 108-104 in double overtime to #21 California last night. UCLA started slowly and was down by as many as 16 points in the second quarter, but fought back to within three points with just three seconds on the clock. It was time for more heroics from Jordin Canada:
Oh Canada! No offense Nirra! We are headed to overtime! pic.twitter.com/T3yeqraACV— UCLA W. Basketball (@UCLAWBB) December 22, 2015
Although UCLA held the lead for much of the first overtime period, the Bruins needed a late breakaway basket from Monique Billings to tie the score at 96 and send the contest to a second overtime. Ultimately, the Bruins couldn't get stops against Cal when they needed them, and came up short in the second overtime period.
Unfortunately, it was the third loss for the Bruins in their three nonconference games against ranked teams. On the other hand, the Bruins were just one possession away from winning each of the games, and both #2 South Carolina dn #3 Notre Dame have substantially more big game experience than the 2015-16 Bruins.
Still, the Bruins have to address their shortcomings before their Pac-12 opener against Southern Cal next week. Against the Golden Bears, UCLA's defense simply wasn't good enough--Cal shot 53.2% for the game. Also, UCLA's three-point shooting has been below average this season, which is puzzling since the Bruins have a terrific pair of outside shooters in Kari Korver and Kennedy Burke. Last night UCLA shot just 25% from behind the arc, and on the season, the Bruins are shooting an anaemic 31.9%. That's not good enough against ranked teams.
The Bruins are back in action on Monday when they play UC Riverside. It's not an ideal tune-up for USC, but it will be a last chance for Coach Close to give her bench players some meaningful minutes before their Pac-12 campaign begins.