California Defeats UCLA, 68-61
By Bruin Basketball Report
The California Bears wanted to make a statement on their trip down to southern California this week. And they did just that.
After beating USC on Thursday, Cal went into Pauley Pavilion and beat a red-hot Bruin team, 68-61, even though the Bruins held Cal's leading scorer Leon Powe to just 5 points in the game.
Cal (8-3, 2-0) led most of the game although their biggest lead never exceeded 7 points. But whenever the Bruins seemed to make a run, the Bears answered from the outside or grabbed an offensive rebound for an easy put back. The Bears had 7 offensive rebounds with most of them leading to second chance scores.
The UCLA Bruins (11-2, 1-1) began the game against Cal with the same defensive scheme they used against Stanford - double and trap the opponent's best low post player - in this case it was Leon Powe, and make the rest of the team beat them. However what worked against Stanford did not work today.
Cal shot 52% total from the field in handing the Bruins only their second loss of the season.
Although Cal's Leon Powe scored only 5 points - 15 below his season average - Powe helped his team by not forcing up bad shots against the double teams he faced. Powe took only 7 shots (he averages 13 FGA) and attracted double teams whenever he had the ball which then freed up his teammates for open shots - and Cal took full advantage.
The Cal came into the game shooting 40% from 3PT but shot even better in this game - hitting on 6-10 (60%) from behind the arc. The Cal starting guards all scored in double figures; Omar Wilkes had 12 points, Richard Midgeley scored 12, and Ayinde Ubaka finished with a team high 18 points. On the inside, 6'10 DeVon Hardin had 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting - most of them coming within 5 feet of the basket.
The Bear's head coach Ben Braun devised an effective defensive game plan. Knowing the Bruins wanted to run and push the tempo. The Bears took away the Bruin's transition game by sending three players back after every shot - whether the shot was missed or made - the Cal players were already back to stop a Bruin break.
As a result, UCLA did not have a single transition basket and the game was transformed into a slower, half-court game - a tempo in which the Bruins have not done well with this year. With no transition baskets and having to operate their offense exclusively in the half-court - the Bruins shot a season-low 36.7%.
One reason the Bears were also able to execute their defensive game plan so well was because they controlled the boards on both ends of the court. Cal outrebounded UCLA 29-23. Cal's Leon Powe and DeVon Hardin had 12 and 8 rebounds, respectively.
Freshman Luc Mbah a Moute had his string of double-figure rebounds end in this game. He got into early foul trouble and had difficulty with the big bodies of Cal's front line. As a result, Mbah a Moute had no rebounds in the first half and only three total for the game.
The Bruin bigmen could not keep up with the bigger and more physical Cal front line. Sophomore Lorenzo Mata started the game at center and had 5 rebounds but went 0-5 from the field. Freshman Ryan Wright played 15 minutes but had no rebounds in the game. They were outbattled for rebounds and position in the paint. The Bruins clearly will need a bigger and tougher presence in the paint against Cal when they face them again.
The only bright spot on the Bruin front line was Alfred Aboya who scored 8 points and grabbed 3 rebounds. He also had two nice scores after the Bruins broke the Cal press with Aboya driving the lane for layups. In addition, Aboya was the Bruins best low post defender - he was perhaps the most physical of all the Bruin bigmen down low.
The Bruins did not start the game with the same level of intensity they showed against Stanford - especially on the defensive end . The Bruin help defense was slow in their traps and rotations which allowed either wide-open 3-PT shots by the Cal guards or layups by their bigmen.
Arron Afflalo led the Bruins again in scoring with 18 points and Josh Shipp scored 10 points, but they were the only Bruins to score in double figures.
Jordan Farmar, who was questionable for the game after spraining his ankle against Stanford, played 36 minutes but he was clearly not as quick on defense nor as effective in implementing the offense. Farmar finished with only 5 points on 2 of 11 shooting and was 0-5 from 3PT. On the Bruin's first offensive possession of the game, Farmar telegraphed a post pass which Omar Wilkes literally took out of Farmar's hands. On the defensive end, he was slow to close out on Cal's outside shots.
Darren Collison chipped in 8 points but had no assists. Collison also had 3 turnovers - one which ended a potential Bruin comeback at the end of the game.
With 49 seconds left and the Bruins down by only 2 points, Arron Afflalo stripped the ball away from Ayinde Ubaka. Darren Collison saw the ball and began dribbling the other way before he gained possession - Ubaka recovered and stole the ball back from Collison and banked it from 5 feet for a Cal 4 point lead. The Bruins were unable to recover.
UCLA could have used more big bodies down low, but both seniors Michael Fey (ankle) and Ryan Hollins (groin) did not suit up for the game. The Bruins will definitely need both of them back when they face Cal again later in the Pac-10 season.
With Farmar less effective due to his injury, the Bruins needed someone else to step up besides just Afflalo and Shipp and be the Bruin's third scorer- but no one did on this New Year's eve in Westwood.
The Bruins go on the road and face the Arizona schools next week. They play Arizona on Thursday and then go to Tempe for a game against Arizona St. on Saturday.
Note: The score was 66-61 with 8 seconds left when Cal rebounded a missed shot and threw the length of court to Ayinde who waited until .01 seconds and then put in a layup to extend the score. It was a completely classless act by the Bears. In addition, the Cal bench was assessed a techincal foul for unsportsman-like conduct towards the end of the game as well.
I'm sure the Bruins will remember this game.
(photo credit: Getty images)