Bruins Struggle Early Again But Rally For 11th Win
By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report
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)
Labels: Game Summaries