Love and Keefe Help UCLA Hold Off Western Kentucky
By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report
Top-seed UCLA gave up a 21 point halftime lead before hanging on to a 88-78 victory to advance to the West Region Final, Elite 8, on Saturday against Xavier.
In the first half, the Bruins put on a basketball clinic holding Western Kentucky to just 20 points on a meager 18.8% field goal shooting. Russell Westbrook and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute held Hilltopper leading scorer Courtney Lee to just 2 of 13 shooting. On the offensive end, UCLA abused them in the paint as the Bruins scored 24 of its 41 first half points from close range, finishing with a 51.6% shooting clip.
However, a regulation college basketball game is 40 minutes long, and unfortunately for the Bruins, they seemingly forgot there was still 20 minutes left when they entered intermission with a 41-20 lead.
UCLA came out in the second half without any sign of focus or intensity.
Western Kentucky scored two quick uncontested lay-ups as the Bruins perimeter defenders became lackadaisical and the rotations down low, specifically Kevin Love, were too slow switching.
Coach Ben Howland, sensing early trouble, called a quick time-out to get into the ear of his young players. Unfortunately, they took no heed to his words.
The Hilltoppers went on to score 58 points in the second-half --- the Bruin defense had allowed opponents an average of 58.2 points in an ENTIRE game this season.
Western Kentucky cut the margin to just four points with six minutes remaining in the game but the Bruins were able to hold them off, mainly by hitting from the foul line, making their last 14 of 16 free throws to hold off the charging Hilltoppers.
While some might point to the Hilltoppers fullcourt press that sparked their rally, in reality it was UCLA unfocused play that led to turnovers and sloppy play.
UCLA's backcourt picked up quick fouls in the half. Darren Collison, Russell Westbrook, and Josh Shipp played with four fouls for much of the second half with Collison fouling out with still over five minutes remaining. Some might blame the referees for calling some unwarranted fouls, but really it was a result of the Bruins not playing aggressive on the defensive end, reaching instead of moving.
No...the second-half collapse was not on the refs. The Bruin players need to shoulder the blame for their own play in this one.
A matter of fact, Western Kentucky had more personal fouls, 24, called on them versus UCLA's 22.
Fortunately for UCLA, it had too much of an advantage down low with Kevin Love, and a surprising contributor in sophomore James Keefe.
Love finished with 29 points on 10 of 14 shooting and 14 rebounds. He scored at will inside and was key to the Bruins breaking the Hilltoppers press, especially in the opening half.
While Love's stellar line is practically a given in every game he plays, Keefe's contributions were a much needed shot in the arm. The sophomore recorded his first double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. He cleaned up a lot of Bruin misses, hauling down 6 offensive rebounds and putting them back in.
Keefe played 26 minutes and played a key role especially when Collison fouled out. With a lack of depth in the backcourt, Keefe's play allowed the Bruins to play Mbah a Moute at small forward and to guard Courtney Lee down the stretch which allowed them to protect Westbrook from picking up another foul.
Westbrook also finished with a double-double, 14 points and 11 rebounds. Josh Shipp finished with 14 points, including a three-point shot as the shot clock expired with four minutes in the game to give the Bruins a nine-point lead the Hilltoppers could not overcome.
The Bruins will now face No.3 seed Xavier on Saturday for the West Region championship and a chance to advance to their third consecutive Final Four. Although the UCLA players will likely have this Western Kentucky game, especially their subpar second half play, on their minds for awhile.
(photo credit: AP)
Labels: Game Summaries (Tournament)