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UCLA Basketball News Roundup: Don’t Blame the Players for This Ugly Loss

This team has talent. Does it have an offense? No.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington
UCLA struggles against teams that play defense and have some talent.
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s state with some quotes the announcers of yesterday’s ugly fest of a 69-55 loss by the UCLA Bruins to the Washington Huskies. Bill Walton’s long-suffering sidekick ESPN Announcer Dave Pasch declared the first half the “ugliest I’ve seen in 15 years of doing basketball on ESPN.”

Let me turn to Ben Bolch of the LA Times for more about UCLA’s ugly play.

UCLA lost the ball dribbling in transition. It lost the ball driving into the paint. It lost the ball on an inbounds pass. It lost the ball on a jump pass. It lost the ball on an entry pass. It lost the ball on a lob that sailed out of bounds. It lost the ball moving it around the perimeter while hearing the buzz of an expiring shot clock.

The Bruins did not invent ways to turn over the ball Saturday afternoon against Washington but checked off a healthy inventory of conceivable blunders.

Perhaps most distressing was that it was only halftime.

There were 18 turnovers in the first half. The AP story on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer website takes it from the Washington perspective in a story entitled “Halfway to perfection: Washington tops UCLA 69-55:

It was not one of Washington’s more eye-pleasing performances, especially in the first half when both teams were more interested in committing turnovers than getting good looks at the basket. But the Huskies made 11 3-pointers, including four in the first half from Crisp, to help offset the early sloppiness. . . .

But the Bruins couldn’t overcome a first half that was defined by sloppy turnovers by both teams. Washington continued to show it struggles when facing full-court pressure defense, while UCLA was simply careless against the Huskies zone. UCLA committed 18 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, three more than its season average for an entire game. The Bruins had nearly as many turnovers (18) as shot attempts (23) in the first half.

The same article notes that UCLA had a missed opportunity in the first half.

UCLA: The Bruins turnover problems were better in the second half with just five after halftime, but the wasted possessions in the first-half — especially early after building an eight-point lead — ended up being a major factor.

UCLA led for the first ten minutes of the game but that missed opportunity is obvious. The first half box scores numbers are telling. A few key numbers:

  • Opponent Turnovers: 17
  • Points off Turnovers: 12
  • Layups: 9-18
  • Fastbreak Points: 4

Are you kidding me? 17 turnovers and four, JUST FOUR, fastbreak points!!

If I want to get into players I could criticize Chris Smith, who committed three turnovers in five minutes, but here is the thing. Smith has shown POTENTIAL in the past. He has played well and arguably made the play of the season when he made the basket off the missed free throw that tied the Oregon game. But, I think many fans are too hard on the players.

Instead, I would argue you the potential is there for this team. Keep in mind this is a team that scored 92, 98, 87, 90, and 87 in its five Pac-12 wins. That is over 90+ a game. This team has potential and talent. It is just plain ugly on offense. As I said in the last roundup, it is not that UCLA is getting better or worse, it is they can score on a badly coach or lesser talented teams because there is so much raw talent. In the last roundup I asked if the Washington State game was the Bruins’ best game or worst opponent. Now, we have our answer. It is not, as Tracy Pierson of Bruin Report Online argued after the win over a terrible Washington State team, that this team needs to play slow and played its best game. Washington State is ugly on defense so UCLA with its raw talent can shred them. This UCLA team can score, but it is a group of talented individuals that struggles to score against a good team defense.

Really what this group of talented individuals need is a coach. Interim Coach Bartow has UCLA playing decent to good defense and showing good effort. But there is no offense. The team showed yesterday that it can’t even run a fast break. At times, it is hard to watch UCLA on offense. Yet, don’t knock the players. A team without talent could not average over 90 points a game in five Pac-12 wins.

A good to great coach could really take this team far. We’re going to have to wait until next year because this is still a Steve Alford team. And, remember, Steve Alford brought in Murry Bartow to coach the defense not the offense. Alford took the offense. And that is the problem. As Bartow said in the Times:

“We did enough good things there to win,” Bartow said, “but we needed 15, 16, 17 more points and when you turn it over 23 times, you just eliminate all that.”

Go Bruins!