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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Defense is the Key

UCLA plays defense for a half and Berkeley does not even understand the concept.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at California
One of Olesinski’s blocks. GG and Alex combined for five blocks
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA’s 107-84 win over UC Berkeley was a tale of two halves, according to the Daily Bruin.

Saturday was a tale of two zones for UCLA.

The Bruins shot lights out from 3-point distance, making 17 of their 30 attempts, including 9-of-11 after halftime.

On the defensive end, UCLA’s 3-2 zone wreaked havoc on Cal’s offense. The Bears shot only 18.2 percent on 3-pointers and 25.6 percent overall in the first half.

Not sure why the Daily Bruin says zones. I will say Don MacLean in a postgame question that really summed up the Bruins and the key to their good first half:

When you guys are locked in defensively it really helps your offense. Maybe more than any other team in this conference because you’re so talented individually on offensively.

UCLA’s defense was good in the first half and UCLA not only held the Golden Bears to a 25.6 shooting percentage, they also scored 54 points.

The second half again was a bit worrisome. Ben Bolch of the LA Times points out:

UCLA (12-4, 3-1 Pac-12 Conference) withstood a spirited rally after Cal used a full-court press to force turnovers and slice what had been a 22-point deficit to 11 points midway through the second half. A four-point play by reserve forward Alex Olesinski, of all people, prevented the Bears from getting any closer the rest of the way....

Olesinski made a career-high three three-pointers on the way to a career-high 14 points and teammate Thomas Welsh made a career-high four three-pointers and finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds. UCLA forward Kris Wilkes also tied his career high with four three-pointers against a sagging defense that tempted the Bruins to beat it from long range....

”We came in knowing that they were going to zone us,” Olesinski said, “but we didn’t know we were going to have that many opportunities to make threes so we took advantage of them.”

This is one of the reasons UC Berkeley is really a bad team. This is what Wyking Jones said to the San Jose Mercury News:

The Bears’ zone defense gave UCLA almost no trouble. The Bruins simply moved the ball until they had an open 3-point shot, and they made eight by halftime, finishing 17 of 30. In particular, Cal’s zone never could close out shooters in the corners, and many of UCLA’s misses came on wide-open looks.

“They took the shots we want them to take. Unfortunately, they made them,” [Bears Coach] Jones said.

The second half run is a bit worrisome as all teams won’t be as badly coached as Berkeley. Speaking of coaches, UCLA’s coach Steve Alford was not happy with the effort in the second half.

Cal narrowed its deficit to 11 points midway through the second half and forced Alford to call a timeout following a lackadaisical inbounds play. During the break-in action, he reminded his team not to follow the same path it did in giving up double-digit leads in road contests at Stanford and Michigan.

But UCLA won the game and, besides nice things needing to be said about Alex Olesinski, the upperclassmen and leaders need a shout out as well. Thomas Welsh talked about his nose and the use of the face mask as well as being a leader.

It (the mask) might be here for a while. . . . Just trying to lead the young guys the best I can and . . . set the tone.

Finally, Aaron Holiday spoke about the two keys for UCLA:

Defense and winning on the road. That’s about it.

Defense is THE key to this team. When they play it, they can run and score, but they can’t always play a team as badly coached as UC Berkeley.

Go Bruins!