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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Defense Keys Offense for Win

UCLA beats Washington 74-53 with the best Pac-12 game defense of the Alford era

Washington v UCLA
Holiday’s coast to coast dunk was a result of defensive pressure
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

In my article on how he UCLA Bruins could win the Pac-12, I wrote how the “the defense is better and could be MUCH better.” Last night, we saw that. From the official site:

Trailing 43-29 with 17 minutes to play, the Bruins outscored the visiting Huskies, 45-10, the rest of the way. UCLA limited Washington to just 17 percent shooting (6-for-35) in the second half, with the Huskies going 0-for-15 from three-point range after halftime. Overall, Washington made just two of 27 three-point attempts. UCLA held an opponent to its lowest three-point shooting percentage (7.4%) since limiting Stanford to 0-for-13 from three-point range in a win on Jan. 5, 2013 in Pauley Pavilion.

UCLA outrebounded the Huskies, 43-38, en route to securing a 2-0 Pac-12 start for the first time since 2012-13.

Actually, while it was not as obvious, the defense picked up during the first half after a bad start, as notes:

Neither team shot well in the first half yet the Huskies did most of their damage early. They jumped out to a 21-9 lead with 12:23 left.

Then came the cold streak. UW missed eight straight shots and didn’t score until Nazier Carter broke through on a dunk with 1:13 remaining.

Carter’s basket was the only make during a 1 of 13 stretch for the Huskies. In all, the Huskies shot 39.4 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from deep.

UCLA’s offense was a different story. As Ben Bolch of the LA Times points out:

Washington's 2-3 zone defense and inside-out approach on offense befuddled UCLA while helping the Huskies build leads as large as 13 points in the first half. Washington was also just plain tougher, grabbing three offensive rebounds on the same possession, prompting Ali to twirl in disgust after the last one.

Ben does not get what led to the change. UCLA never really figured out the zone. What they did do is use the tougher defense to lead to offense just as I wrote in that same season preview “our better defense will lead to better offense.” Tarek Fattal writes on the website:

The defensive pressure created turnovers and transition baskets. Holiday had a coast-to-coast dunk at the 6-minute mark that tied the game at 48-48. The next possession, Wilkes stole the ball and got fouled in transition. His free throws gave the Bruins the lead, which they kept for the remainder of the game.

UW is not Kentucky but they also aren’t bad. Keep in mind what they did two days before to Southern Cal:

The Bruins outscored Washington 46-17 in the second half, holding the Huskies to 17 percent shooting – a very different mark from Washington’s shooting clip Friday night in it’s 88-81 win against USC – where they shot 67 percent from the field.

Some of that better second half defense that led to offense was not the zone as much as the press. As Steve Alford said:

We have played zone before and I think we just needed a change. I think more than the zone it was the full-court press that energized us. It’s not like we turned them over, but it was just energizing to our guys. It got us moving around more because that was the first team we’ve played against that’s in a zone for 40 minutes and we stood a lot in the first half. The press and our defense helped us get into transition and get moving a little bit. Once we were able to get into transition a little bit, we attacked the zone a lot better.

Putting aside the Michigan debacle, this has become something of a second half team. The Daily Bruin points out:

For the second game in a row, the Bruins overcame shaky first-half shooting to erupt in the second half. Between Friday’s win over Washington State and Sunday’s win over Washington, UCLA has shot 37.1 percent in the first half and 51.9 percent in the second half to open Pac-12 play.

Some perspective is needed. UCLA beat a bad WSU team and had a nice comeback at home against an okay to good Washington Huskies team. UCLA goes on the road now where Pac-12 champions are determined. Hopefully UCLA will play two halves next week and beat Stanford and UC Berkeley. As I wrote, the potential is there to do it and, as we saw last night, that potential is keyed by the defense.

Go Bruins!