Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bruins Struggle Early Again But Rally For 11th Win

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

Josh Shipp and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute led a late second-half rally as UCLA beat Michigan, 69-54, at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor.

UCLA (11-1) had raced out to an early 8-0 lead shortly after the tip-off but failed to deliver the early knockout punch and instead went into a slumber to allow the Wolverines back into the game.

Michigan reserve center, Zack Gibson hit a three-pointer with just over six minutes remaining in the half to put the Wolverines ahead for the first time, 14-13, and then C.J. Lee 's three-pointer from the corner as time expired gave Michigan a 27-24 lead going into halftime.

UCLA shot just 34.8% from the field and 0-4 on their three-pointers in the first half, as many of the Bruins players lacked any intensity in their play.

The only player to show any fire was freshman Kevin Love who scored 11 of his 17 game-high points in the first half. He was visibly frustrated by his perceived lack of foul calls by officials. In one ensuing play, Love got the ball inside and powered to the basket and missed but then muscled to get to the ball twice more and finally got a foul call. Love also finished with a game-high 16 rebounds.

Michigan (4-8), as expected, used a 1-3-1 zone defense which seemed to baffle the Bruins for most of the game who appeared tentative in attacking it. Rather than aggressively attacking the zone from the high post or off the dribble drive and kicking, they instead threw soft passes over the top of the of the zone which allowed the Wolverine defense to easily recover and defend.

In the second half, the Bruins still struggled on offense, but perhaps after a halftime tongue-lashing by Coach Howland, they came out with a little more intensity on defense. Yet, the Wolverine's demise may have had more to do with their own ineptitude on offense. Michigan finished 6 of 31 (19.4%) from three-point distance in the game, including just 1-13 in the decisive second half.

"We took about 30 3s and we had at least 25 great looks," Beilein said. "If we hit 30 percent of them, and we'll usually do that, it is a different game."

With the score tied 41-41 in the second half, Mbah a Moute and Shipp combined to scored 10 straight points to put the Bruins ahead in the game for good.

UCLA's Russell Westbrook added 12 points on 5-10 shooting and put the clamps on another opponent's best offensive scorer, holding Michigan's Manny Harris to just 3-12 shooting and 11 points.

Point-guard Darren Collison, who is still not playing at 100%, was just 2-8 from the field although he finished with 7 assists.

With just a single non-conference game remaining before Pac-10 play, the Bruins are not yet hitting on all cylinders.

Many times this season, especially at the start of games, the Bruins have lacked intensity in their play. As a result, they've fallen behind early to opponents, necessitating a late rally to win games although their rally fall short against Texas.

When forced into a half court game against a quality opponent, the Bruin offense has faltered and it has looked particularly anemic against zone defenses.

Some have pointed to the need for UCLA to get the ball inside more often to Kevin Love, but the issue seems to go beyond any one individual. A matter of fact against Michigan, although Love only had 8 field goal attempts he did receive the ball enough to go to the foul line 10 times.

No, the early season problem appears to be one of team chemistry.

In past seasons under Coach Howland, the Bruins have always featured go-to individuals on offense but the players on the floor always operated as a team. At this point in the season, the team appears to lack the same level of chemistry of past years. In some ways they still seem to be seeking a team identity.

UCLA will do well this season because they have talented players and Howland coaches a solid brand of defense, and its their defensive intensity that creates most of their offensive opportunities.

It's much to early in the season to hit the fire alarm, however, unless the Bruins come together as a group, they run the risk of not reaching their fullest potential as a team, a season which started with some of the best individual pieces Westwood has seen in years.

(photo credit: AP)



At Dec 22, 2007, 11:53:00 AM, Anonymous Rob said...

Things that need to change:
1) There were a number of opportunities to get the ball to Love one-on-one down low. They were wasted.
2) Love needs to be quicker (less fat, more muscle) so he can rotate better on defense.
3) The Bruins need to practice more against zones. They can't play against themselves since they don't normally play a zone. Maybe they could rent out the Clippers or something.
4) What the hell were all those lob passes about?!?
5) We need to play more true away games (early in the season)in the future.
6) This team is too tense. Lots of unproductive nervous energy for most of this game. This can be corrected by thinking TEAM first...on every play, on every possesion, every single time you touch the ball. Points 4,5,and 6 are all addressed at coaching. They need to step it up more than the players.

At Dec 22, 2007, 12:40:00 PM, Anonymous JonW said...

Even though we won by 15, I completely agree with you. I don't see or hear team first...yeah sure they talk about it...but you don't see it on the court.
That "feed the animal" shirt Love's dad the perfect example of 'me first' instead of team

At Dec 22, 2007, 12:52:00 PM, Anonymous dee said...

rob got it all right... except i don't quite agree with organizing away games during preseason, because that's when upsets happen (see USC losing to Citadal in their first game), i think entering a solid tourney and playing more solid teams at home should do the trick...
i think collison is just anxious how much of his stock has dropped since he got injured and is in a hurry to make it back to his last year's form which cause him to do a little too much sometime... (same for roll who did a silly behind the back pass on the break, but Roll was probably the only one who did a good job feeding Love in the post)...
once again proves my point that Howland is not a good offensive coach... a good offensive coach could've run plays to get Love open (penetrate and dish, pick & roll can both easily opens up the offense rather than passing the ball around the perimeter we have done the past 3 years) it's just frustrating to see how everytime love touches the ball, something good happens but it's so rare for him to touch the ball, a player with his ball skills should have the offense run through him but Love only touches the ball one in maybe 3 or even 4 possesions
well... at least luc is playing alot better since the michigan st game which is something to look forward to, and westbrook's defense is shutting opposite players down

At Dec 22, 2007, 2:03:00 PM, Anonymous BruinLee said...

BBR, you are spot on about the chemistry issues of this team. This team is not as team oriented as it has been the past couple of year perhaps the loss of Arron Afflalo has to do with it. He played with heart and was all about the team.
So far too much about the individual...feed the animal way over the top. Let's get back to winning and playing for each other. Something is missing here....

At Dec 22, 2007, 2:17:00 PM, Anonymous fvelas2004 said...

I agree with a lot of the points above. On defense the team did not have their normal teniousness. They were not jumping at loose balls or helping out as the normally do. I saw Shipp just stand there and not rotate to help out at least three times. Good thing he did well offensively towards the end. Love did the same thing. He is a great player but he is still a freshman has a lot to learn on defense about rotating and helping out. I know he the leading scorer but the team makes there big runs and comebacks when he is off the floor and the core guys from the last two final four teams are in. That sas a couple things either the opposing teams are focusing the game plan on Love or core guys from last year and are still trying to figure out how to play with each other. Its probably a little of both.
On offense it look like Collision was playing not to get hurt. He was not pentatrating and kicking out like should with zone defense. Those lob passes made Michigan look like they had a top tier defense which is obvious they are not. As the floor leader Collision sets the tone for the offense. Unfortunately in this case it was tenative and unagressive. I think as a team the are trying to stay healthy and waiting to put their best effort for the Pac 10. Hopefully that is the case however painful to watch. Maybe just finishing finals and flying back east was a little to tiring for the team. Many people have questioned Howland's scheduling of lower rung teams and I always defended it given the strength of the PAC-10 this year however, I starting to believe that he has scheduled too many games period. Playing too many lower end teams can actually be a demotivator. Its ok to play lower rung teams just not so many of them and to stick with best preseason tournaments. The CBE added two scrub teams to the schedule. I know Maui you can only play every 4 years but, what about the preseason NIT? Anyone know? Hopefully the team will be focused and playing to win once Stanford comes along.
p.s. I do disgree about the comment of Howland not being a good offense coach. A solid defense most of the time will lead to a productive offense. However a good offense has no impact on defense. Look at the NBA. In terms of UCLA, I will take Howland any day over any other coach in the NBA or college ranks right now.

At Dec 22, 2007, 2:49:00 PM, Anonymous Dave said...

Nice post fvelas but try some page breaks next time.
The nonconference schedule was incredibly weak this year, people complained about it previous years but they were wrong. This year, they are right about it.
We need better competition to help the team gel before pac 10 starts. As it is now, that opening weekend in the Bay area is looking pretty scary right now.
Worse, we only have UC Davis next Saturday to work out some additional kinks.

At Dec 22, 2007, 2:49:00 PM, Anonymous Brad said...

It's very hard to play loose offensively after playing intense defense. I see Aflalo as less of a team player. That's why he was the go to guy, he was always Me First, when he thought the game was getting out of hand. I don't care about Stan Loves wardrobe! Soft lobs are a bad idea. Guards screen for Guards- Then attack! is a good idea. OUT.

At Dec 22, 2007, 7:00:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Completely agree Brad. Love is great for UCLA (as an Afflalo replacement) in a sense that he can make timely, high percentage shots for UCLA. He is almost automatic around the basket. If our guys learn to throw it in to him we will win a lot of close games because he can hardly be guarded under the basket.

At Dec 22, 2007, 9:14:00 PM, Anonymous ASK said...

I appreciate everyone's enthusiasm and interest in the team but what is all this criticism with Howland's coaching abilities? Everyone here knows how to coach, schedule, and probably recruit better than him. Do you guys remember what this team looked like before he got here? Sheesh give him a break. If the team goes sub .500 in PAC 10 play and they get booted in the first round of the tournament then come back here and "teach" Howland how to do his job. If he makes another National Championship run this year than maybe he knows what he is doing and it might not be just dumb luck for a poor coach.

At Dec 23, 2007, 2:38:00 AM, Anonymous JackB said...

Agree with many of the comments. Bottom line, its still early in the season but this is definitely not a team complete yet.
Howland will have these guys playing "for" each other by the time the tourney rolls around...albeit it should have happened by Pac 10 play though.

At Dec 23, 2007, 11:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Howland Rocks

At Dec 23, 2007, 11:17:00 AM, Anonymous J said...

Why did Maata play so few minutes? Is he okay?

At Dec 23, 2007, 11:37:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mata has a bruised shoulder.

At Dec 23, 2007, 1:49:00 PM, Anonymous J said...

So are we going to get a status update on Mata? Will he be okay or is it no big deal

At Dec 23, 2007, 2:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No big deal, minor bruise.

At Dec 23, 2007, 4:36:00 PM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

We were sleep walknig with the time change...the number of turnovers proved that...
Those "lob passes" are ugly.....ever hear of the bounce pass???
We post comments cuz we r die hards...
Fact is...our Bruins are not used to playing with each other yet...DC's knee is not 100% yet...
Bring on the Pac-10....I'll bet anybody...we'll lose less games than last year going into the tny....

At Dec 24, 2007, 3:43:00 AM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

Mata did bruise his shoulder in the Western Illinois game. No evidence this is why he played limited minutes against MI, although it was mentioned perhaps he was under the weather but I can't confirm this.
However, there was one defensive play where Mata was slow in rotating to a guard who was curling off a pick on the perimeter who then promptly made an easy uncontested jumper. Whether this was due to a defensive lapse on his part or if he just was not into the game for other reason, don't know.
Howland has a pressor on Friday, we'll learn more at that point though.

At Dec 24, 2007, 4:27:00 AM, Anonymous clyde said...

Just a quick post about expectations.
I find myself being critical of a young team with just one senior. Why?
Should I expect 15 point leads and 30 point blowouts against every opponent - hardly.
New Years Resolution - enjoy the maturing process of a team as it develops its identity.
We have loads of talent here now and plenty on the way. This is a great time for UCLA basketball. Enjoy the ride.
Understand foremost that Howland/Bruins play a non-glamorous style of basketball. If it defensive and control minded. But it also produces results. What it isn't is a flashy high scoring ensemble that disappears under pressure.
Go Bruins !!!

At Dec 24, 2007, 5:12:00 AM, Anonymous DB said...

That feed the animal shirt is in no way saying to be selfish IMO. It just means to get the ball inside to the big man. Whenever you have a dominating big man inside, you should always dump inside to him as much as possible even if you got great outside players.
Outside shooting is not as consistent as inside scoring. Not to mention a great inside game opens the offense even more creating easy opportunities for all.
I agree that the offense against the Michigan's 1-3-1 was horrid most of the time with perimeter players floating the ball back and forth. What that needs to be done is to have your small forward work the baselines back and forth with your center setting screens for him while popping up to the freethrow line to get the ball. Once the ball is there at the free throw line, the defense is pretty much broken.
I also like to see UCLA defense extend their perimeter defense out more a bit to utilize their quick guards.

At Dec 24, 2007, 2:41:00 PM, Anonymous dee said...

to clyde,
everyone understands that UCLA plays tenaciously ugly defense and i bet most ucla fans enjoy watching them... but look at memphis they play tenacious D but are still able to have better offensive flow than we do
also, we had no seniors last year as well... but i would say our offense flow much better with collison being healthy and unexpected and affalo being the go-to guy (and with everyone acknowledging that fact). Maybe the older guys are unwilling to acknowledge that a freshmen is the go-to guy... just maybe... i hope that is not the reason


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