Thursday, March 27, 2008

Love and Keefe Help UCLA Hold Off Western Kentucky

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Box Score

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)



At Mar 27, 2008, 5:08:00 PM, Anonymous dee said...

how sick is keefe... those couple of blocks he had against smaller quicker guards are sick! in a good way of course... and way to go shipp, like someone pointed out, he's not a shooter but a scorer and he did exactly that (a shooter never shoot those kind of crazy off-balanced 3, a scorer does)...
also this game made me remember how thin we are on the guard spots... at one point i was thinking if collison and maybe westbrook fouled out we'll be stuck with abdul-hamid!!! i mean it would be like having mitch johnson handling the ball dang!!!!

At Mar 27, 2008, 5:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Mitch isn't that bad, he had 16 assists and one turnover vs. a pretty good, guard oriented Marquette team.

At Mar 27, 2008, 6:29:00 PM, Anonymous Grrr said...

I'm thinking that the saving grace for all these close wins is that the Bruins have reached the Elite 8 without playing their best basketball. I'm hoping the Bruins' best is yet to come, without any losses of course. Go Bruins!

At Mar 27, 2008, 10:30:00 PM, Anonymous Smilin' said...

Our guard play, which I expected to be a strength last night, was weak. Darren was sloppy / loose with the ball all night long.
Our front line is what saved us. WKU was in the bonus with 13 minutes to go in the second half. I think we planned on "mailing it in" in the second half.
We were one foul (Westbrook) away from losing this game. Stanback or Shipp would have been running the offense as the PG.
I hope CBH kicks some butt in practice today. Xavier is going to be a very close game. Good to see Josh make clutch shots and everyone shot FTs well down the stretch, too.

At Mar 28, 2008, 12:46:00 AM, Anonymous BruinBlue said...

Great point Grr...aside from Mississippi Valley St, the Bruins have not played great ball sans Love and Keefe in the last game. Lets see if we can put it all together in each of the last three (hopefully) games!

At Mar 28, 2008, 2:28:00 AM, Anonymous DB said...

Game like tonight is how I like to see Ucla use zone once in a while. A 3-2 zone could have helped ucla a lot from outside jumpers and picking up fouls. Especially with a short roster, fast games will wear you out so it is nice having a breather here and there defensively.
I thought WKU played one hell of a game. This season without Love, we probably would have lost in the second round or even make the NCAA tournament.

At Mar 28, 2008, 4:01:00 AM, Anonymous Brew In said...

I told ya so!!! (Check my past posts) I'd been watching Keefe the last couple of games and he was making only positive plays! Give that kid some playing time and look what happens. How ironic has this season gone where in last night's game I cringed everytime Luc got the ball and felt comfort everytime it went into James' hands!
Hooray for Josh! Maybe these guys do read our blogs. He finally took it to the hole with authority and quit relying soley on his treys!
DLove is THE BEAST! Please, please, please Klove, stick around another year! Become a Bruin legend! Alcindor, Walton, and Love! Great ring to it!!!
I hope Howland spends all day practicing against the press because you know Xavier (and every team thereafter) is going to apply it full court, most of the game! That was rather disheartening but because DC being the super competitor he is, should rebound with a terrific game Saturday!
Also screw (sorry BBR) those critics that say we haven't played anyone in the tourny yet! Any team that advances past the first round deserves to be there!. Hats off to WK, they looked like superstars with that pressing defense!
I love this team and their "never-quit" mentality!
Crack out the 12 packs and Goooooooooooooo Bruins!!!


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