Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bruins Survive Scare from Cougars

By Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

With a bull's-eye emblazoned across every UCLA uniform, the Washington Cougars came into Pauley Pavilion and gave the Pac-10 champions their best shot, but were turned away at the end as the top-ranked Bruins (12-0) remained undefeated with a hard-earned 55-52 victory before a roaring crowd of 11,102.

Washington St. (11-2) played inspired defense jumping out to an early 19-9 lead using their own brand of stifling man-to-man pressure defense which frustrated the Bruins into some quick and ill-advised shots.  The Bruins started the game a horrendous 4 of 16 from the field.

The Cougars played solid team defense with Kyle Weaver and Robbie Cowgill giving Bruin shooters fits all night.  Weaver used his athleticism and length to harass UCLA's leading scorer Arron Afflalo into 4-11 shooting and three turnovers while Cowgill provided outstanding help defense blocking four shots in the game.

Washington St. also did a good job shutting down the UCLA transition game by sending three and sometimes four players back after every shot attempt.

Offensively, Washington St.'s motion offense made UCLA work hard throughout most of the shot clock - helping to set a slower tempo favored by the Cougars. 

Derrick Low provided most of the early offense for Washington St. by beating his defender, either Afflalo or Darren Collison, off dribble penetration for a dish to a teammate or scoring lay-up.

With the Bruins unable to generate much offense and the Cougars playing possession ball, Washington St. went into halftime with a 28-24 lead.  The Bruins finished the first-half shooting a sub-par 27.6% from the field.

At halftime UCLA Coach Ben Howland stressed to his players the need to get tougher on defense especially on the perimeter to stop Low's dribble-penetration.  He also wanted his offense to be more patient and look for higher-percentage shots.

The Bruins responded and came out with much more intensity in the second-half and slowly began to gain the upper-hand in the game.

The turning point occurred at the thirteen-minute mark.  With the Bruins down by five, 39-34, Derrick Low drove the baseline for a layup only to have it swatted away by UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.  Mbah a Moute controlled the ball and got it to a streaking Afflalo who nailed a three-point shot off the break - a five-point turnaround which brought the crowd into the game and sparked life into the Bruins.

"The crowd was rooting us back into this game," Howland said. "If this game was in Pullman, we'd lose."

Mbah a Moute gave a tenacious defensive effort in the second-half by disrupting the Cougars' offensive flow with his quickness and size.  He finished with a solid game recording 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 steals. 

Sophomore Michael Roll hit a big three-pointer to put the Bruins up by six with 3:33 remaining in the game.  Prior to the basket, Roll had been having a frustrating night shooting just 0-3 from the field and getting beat a few times on back-door cuts on the defensive end.

The Cougars cut the lead to one point with under a minute left in the game but then Derrick Low, with Darren Collison closing out aggressively on him, missed a tough three-point shot with 12 seconds remaining to end their chances.

Collison, who had played rather passively at the start of the game finishing with no points and three personal fouls in the first-half, came out after intermission with vengeance. 

Despite starting the second-half on the bench to protect him from getting a fourth foul early, the sophomore point-guard took charge of the offense scoring all 13 of his points in the second-half including two key three-pointers.  Collison also finished with 4 assists, a career-high 7 rebounds, and played solid defense on Low down the stretch.

"That first half was Darren's poorest of the year," Howland said. "But he's a great competitor. That's Darren's best attribute, his competitiveness."

Playing with a sprained ankle he hurt on Tuesday at practice, sophomore Josh Shipp played 32 minutes and scored 11 points.

"Josh played hurt and gave us some gutsy minutes today." Howland said. "Without him we would have lost the game." 

Despite being out-shot in the field by the Cougars 43.2% versus 32.7%, UCLA won on the strength of their rebounding (40 to 28) which created eleven more possessions for the Bruins in the game.  In addition, the Bruins shot well from three-point distance (8-19) 42.1%  while the Cougars shot only 3-12 for 25%

"Our offense was really inept.  To be able to win a game shooting 33 percent doesn't happen very often," Howland said. "There was no player movement and that's my responsibility and we will get better. If we don't, we will get beat."

The Cougars hurt themselves at the free-throw line.  Washington St. was a miserable 11-19 (57.9%) from the line.  Derrick Low, an 82% free-throw shooter, finished 1-4 from the stripe including two big misses down the stretch.

The Bruins will take a victory no matter how it comes to them.  They will face a much more up-tempo team in their next contest when they face Washington on Sunday afternoon. 

The Huskies were upset Thursday night in a double-overtime loss to USC, 86-79.

(photo credit: Jack Rosenfeld)



At Dec 29, 2006, 6:11:00 AM, Anonymous DJ_Rob_Gordon said...

Five thoughts:
1. Was the Pauley crowd really all that "roaring"? The students did their part, but for those (like me) watching on TV, the folks seated in the first dozen or so rows behind the benches could easily have been mistaken for cardboard props. I'm convinced that Pauley will remain a decidedly unintimidating venue for road teams until either (a) substantially all of the lower bowl is reconfigured for student seating, or (b) the army of undead zombies that appears to have a stranglehold on season tickets is vanquished and replaced by living, breathing basketball fans.
2. This Wazzou team is an utter nuisance. I'm delighted not to be seeing them again for a few months.
3. Aboya's hands = not good.
4. Excruciating though most of the game was for Bruin fans, the result I find very encouraging. This was a night when the pace wasn't to our liking, calls weren't going our way and nothing was going right on offense. To hold steady in those circumstances and scratch out a win is an impressive feat.
5. It's too bad that the Washington game is on Sunday, rather than Saturday. Having gone to double OT against the Trojans, the Huskies need the extra rest far more than we do.

At Dec 29, 2006, 7:25:00 AM, Anonymous JonW said...

I was at the game and thought the crowd was real loud especially in the second half during the Bruin rally.
Gotta hand it to the fans who usually all that loud but they really came through yesterday.

At Dec 29, 2006, 8:01:00 AM, Anonymous Steve said...

Great BLOG my man. I watched the game last night, UCLA was on the ropes. Marqus Johnson is the worst analyst ever! Hell of a player though.

At Dec 29, 2006, 8:07:00 AM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

The crowd noise at Pauley Pavilion will never be confused with the decibels levels reached at Duke or Kansas. It never has either - not even during the Wooden years. Perhaps its the culture, arena, etc?
With that said, the Pauley crowd was extremely boisterous in their support of the team in the second half - Howland and some of the players even noted the fan support in their post-game interviews.
When Mbah a Moute blocked Derrick Low's shot and Afflalo followed with a three-pointer to rally - the crowd exploded. Not sure if that moment was caught on television but it was bedlam at Pauley.
Moreover, telecasts rarely capture the true excitement at Pauley, the main reason being the television cameras at Pauley don't face the student section, but instead you see a more sedate part of the crowd.
Even Duke doesn't ring their court with students at Cameron arena but the television cameras pick up the Crazies on every shot because it faces them on every possesion during the game.

At Dec 29, 2006, 8:20:00 AM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

Great to have you aboard Steve. Marques and his sons will always be Bruin favorites in our book.
His memorable call of UCLA's 1995 national championship was classic.
Didn't watch the WSU telecast. What's your beef with Marques?

At Dec 29, 2006, 8:23:00 AM, Anonymous Bfan said...

At least Aboya's hands >>> Wright's hands

At Dec 29, 2006, 10:33:00 AM, Anonymous DJ_Rob_Gordon said...

I find Marques to be reasonably knowledgeable, and he generally has good takes. During the WSU game, though, he was mumbling. A LOT. I just kept wishing someone would turn up his mic level.


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