As I mentioned in the notes yesterday, last year the game against Oregon marked a key moment in the season, it was the point where they learned they have to play hard on defense. Yesterday looked as if they forgot about defense. As the Intern mentions in a very good summary article:
UCLA believed Wednesday's game signaled a step forward defensively. Saturday halted the progress. UCLA gave up 1.3 points per possession, its worst mark this season.
Steve Alford blames the defense woes on problems inside.
"We just got killed on the glass," UCLA coach Steve Alford said. "The difference in the game turned out to be offensive board play."
There is evidence to back that up.
Oregon claimed a 41-31 lead against UCLA (12-8, 3-4) by halftime, out-rebounding the visiting Bruins by a 26-20 margin before the intermission. The Ducks won the battle on the boards, 42-32, marking just the fourth time in 20 games this season that UCLA was out-rebounded.
The Intern discusses some of the other issues which I think were key which were matching up with the athletes of Oregon:
"Brooks is a 6-6 guard," Alford said. "And Tony's a 6-9, basically, center. Those are hard matchups."
Oregon used two runs, 8-0 and 9-0, early in the first half to build a cushion, but the Ducks' break came when UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton picked up his third foul with about five minutes remaining before halftime.
Hamilton has been UCLA's hottest player in conference play. Without him, the Bruins tried using three big men, with 6-foot-10 Gyorgy Goloman at small forward. Oregon ran past them.
Again, the Intern's whole article is worth a read. And this is not new, remember the Monmouth loss where Tony Parker had to guard a 6'6" guard?
In all honesty this is most bizarre I have ever seen Steve Alford with lineups. As predicted, Noah Allen and GG played before Jonah Bolden and Prince Ali. Other than the Gonzaga game he was hurt in, Ali played a season low 6 minutes in a game we arguably needed athletic guards. More importantly as the Intern mentions in the last paragraph, you are facing a more athletic team of basically four guards and a big and you counter with three bigs?!!
Although Steve Alford does not mention it another defensive issue was discussed by CBS announcer and UCLA hater Doug Gottlieb and over at Bruins Sport Net:
On the other side, Oregon, not a good defensive team, had a plan on defense. It was simply to stop Bryce:
Bryce Alford, the Pac-12's fourth-leading scorer at 17.1 points per game, was held to 10 after shooting 3 of 13 from the field. Altman credited point guard Casey Benson's defensive play for keeping Alford under wraps.
"(Benson) fought through screens, and he kept a hand on the ball," Altman said. "Bryce is such a good offensive player and when he gets on a roll, he's really dangerous.
UCLA did not really need Bryce's offense yesterday. UCLA shot a blazing 56% in the second half and 50% from three for the game. In large part this was because there was a very big bright spot in the game and one long term good trend, Aaron Holiday. Holiday plays defense and was our best player yesterday:
Meanwhile, freshman Aaron Holiday had arguably the best game of his career, scoring a season-high 19 points to lead the team. He scored eight points in the first 7:02 of the second half, becoming the catalyst in UCLA's comeback effort. The four-star recruit has improved his shooting tremendously in the past several weeks. After averaging 38.8 percent from the field in nonconference play, he is converting 48.6 against Pac-12 opponents.
Holiday also chipped in five rebounds and five assists at Oregon, and didn't miss on six free throw attempts.
But at the end of the day, UCLA's defense was offensive as Jack Wang says "UCLA can't get late stops in 86-72 loss at Oregon" :
But, as Alford had complained earlier this week, UCLA just couldn't get a stop. Pulling away for an 86-72 win at Matthew Knight Arena, the Ducks closed out the game by shooting 12 of 19 from the field, including four of seven from beyond the arc.
For those of you who don't remember this is similar to last year's game against Oregon (although not quite as bad). This is not new news. However, unlike past years, Steve Alford has some options on his bench. So Steve Alford, no excuses, it is time to fix the defensive issues.