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UCLA Basketball's Offense Can Beat KY and AZ, Defense Can Lose to Anyone

UCLA lets Oregon State shoot 62% in the second half

#10 Seed UCLA will match up with USC in the first round of the PAC 12 Tournament
#10 Seed UCLA will match up with USC in the first round of the PAC 12 Tournament
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

From the Daily Bruin on UCLA's twelfth Pac 12 Conference loss this season:

For a season marred by inconsistencies, UCLA certainly has been losing consistently late in the season.

With March Madness chances slim to none, the Bruins wanted momentum heading into the Pac-12 tournament to make a deep run.

Instead, UCLA (15-16, 6-12 Pac-12) ended its conference season with four straight losses after a late comeback fell just short against Oregon State, falling 86-82 in Pauley Pavilion.

Now let's be clear, this team underachieved.  In his postgame presser Steve Alford broke the season down in three parts: part 1 Non -Conference; part 2 PAC 12; part 3 PAC 12 Tournament; and Part 4 post season (unlikely).  While the stories are full of quotes about part 2 and 3, I thought I would throw out a quote on part 1 first:

With our non-conference schedule we did a very good job.  9-4, we did some good things.  Got some key pivotal wins, got a good win away from home in Gonzaga.

In other words, this was not a young team improving as the year went on.  This was not a team that had so little talent it had no chance to compete.  After a non-conference season that included wins over Kentucky and Gonzaga on the road this team showed it was capable of being good.  While no one is saying this team should have added a banner, there is no way this team should miss the NCAA Tourney.

However as Steve Alford says:

Season 2 - league play - was awful. We did a poor job in the 18-game schedule in this league. And that's all stemming from our defense. We were just one of the worst defending teams, and that's something you just can't do.

As far as the game itself it actually fit this team's narrative:

Scoring wasn't the problem for the Bruins against the Beavers (18-11, 9-9). After going into the break tied at 31, they exploded for 51 in the second half. Bryce Alford contributed 18 points and five assists, and was joined in double-figures by junior guard Isaac Hamilton (21 points, including two three-pointers in the final minute), Welsh (14 points, 12 rebounds), senior Tony Parker (14 points, nine rebounds), and Holiday (10 points).

As in previous defeats, Steve Alford pointed to his team's defense as its weak link. The Bruins had brief stretches of defensive intensity, holding the Beavers without a basket for seven minutes in the first half, but couldn't sustain that effort all the way through. The Beavers shot 61.5% in the final 20 minutes, including a blistering six of nine from beyond the arc.

I think it is an overstatement but it is still an interesting symbol that UCLA almost pulled out the miracle win in the last 2 and half minutes when Bryce Alford was in the locker room after being injured, first Thomas Welsh:

"Our backs were against the wall. We started grinding more on the defensive end. We did that at the end, but we can't wait until the end of the game. We have understood what mistakes we've made. We just have to correct them for Season Three."

Those important symbolic details:

With 1:25 remaining in UCLA's regular-season finale at Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins were trailing Oregon State by nine points and quickly approaching a fourth consecutive loss.

But four offensive rebounds, two forced turnovers, and a trio of three-pointers later, UCLA managed to pull within two points with a handful of seconds remaining. Then, the reality check: Freshman Aaron Holiday lost control of his dribble, Oregon State threw a quick outlet pass to Gary Payton II, and one windmill dunk later, the Bruins were back to square one, defeated by a score of 86-82.

Again, it is overstatement but without Bryce UCLA was much better defensively.  However, without Bryce as the point guard, UCLA did not even get a shot off with the game on the line.  I can guarantee you Bryce would not have turned the ball over in that spot (likely would have shot) but not sure UCLA gets there with Bryce in the game as to Bryce "defensive intensity" is an oxymoron.

Let's be clear, no one is saying Bryce should get hurt.  Bryce has had a tough couple weeks being poked in the eye and now knocked to the ground with a hard elbow to the jaw.  As of this writing we don't know how bad it is:

"He got hit in the jaw. He's showering now and on his way to the get a CT scan just to make sure there's no fracture."

We hope Bryce is okay.

To wrap this up, let's just say the Oregon State game once again proved this is a talented UCLA team that can beat Kentucky and Arizona on offense but cannot defend against anyone.  And one of the reasons this team loses so many games is the worst defender is never benched.

Go Bruins.  Go UCLA women in the championship game today!