UCLA Wilts Under Pressure, Bows to Cal
By Bruin Basketball Report
UCLA (11-12, 6-5) barely had a chance to experience first-place in the Pac-10 before dropping right out of it with a 72-58 loss to California (15-8, 7-4) at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.
For about the first nine minutes of the game, the Bruins could do no wrong. They whipped the ball around and scored almost at will and opening up a 14 point lead, 22-8.
But then Cal's Coach Mike Montgomery called a time-out and woke up the sleeping Bear - its pressure defense.
For the next 31 minutes of the game, the Bruins were unable to solve the Bears defense which forced the Bruins out of any offensive rhythm, making them rush their shots, and into 16 turnovers.
By halftime Cal had roared back from its early deficit and overtook its younger southern brethren for a 37-30 lead.
The second-half didn't get any better for UCLA fans as the Bruin offense continued to wilt under the pressure of the Cal defenders who extended the Bruins out further and further on the perimeter as the game progressed and extended its lead to 17 at one point.
Moreover, the Bruins were punished on the boards getting outrebounded by the Bears 31-23.
On offense the Bears sizzled from the three-point line hitting 10-24 as seniors Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson torched UCLA's 2-3 zone defense for 20 apiece.
Cal constantly attacked UCLA's defensive zone on the side of Nikola Dragovic. Dragovic was unable to stop either dribble penetration or was much too slow in his switches as the Bears capitalized on his defensive shortcomings.
Dragovic was unable to make it up on the offensive end either as he shot just 1 of 8 from the field and had 2 rebounds in 31 minutes.
The Bruin zone defense was actually more effective when Dragovic sat on the bench and was replaced by a guard- the zone defense was much quicker and active.
Dragovic's defensive liability is an issue Coach Howland needs to address if the Bruins are going to challenge any further in the conference.
UCLA senior Michael Roll did his part for the Bruins scoring 22 points hitting 9 of 14 from the field.
The Bruins will face the USC Trojans at the Galen Center next Sunday evening.