* I’ll have more analysis on the game tomorrow, but here’s a quick write-up for deadline
Tyler Honeycutt had a perfect look, with perfect lift, and perfect rotation on the ball.
And the ball found the rim, and it spun, and it spun, and it spun, finally squirting out harmlessly to the floor with less than a minute to play.
And once again, UCLA proved to be a mystery.
Well, a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
Only take that, and wrap that in a plastic bag, wrap that with 43 rubber bands, and bury it
smack in the middle of the Sahara.
Three days after losing at Kansas’ vaunted Allen Fieldhouse by one – and a sketchy one, at that, as a much-questioned last-second foul call proved the difference – the Bruins fell to Montana 66-57 at Pauley Pavilion in front of 5,391.
“We deserved the boos,” UCLA junior point guard Lazeric Jones said. “Our fans came to watch us play, and we didn’t give them a good showing. I think a lot of people anticipated us to come out and play hard, especially after our game against Kansas. We did the exact opposite.”
Given the way UCLA played offensively, perhaps Jones should not have been so shocked.
The Bruins shot 20-for-64 from the field, just 31 percent, and committed 16 turnovers, unable to convert even the easiest of baskets.
Leading scorers Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson, who came into the contest averaging a combined 33.2 points per game, combined for just 16 on 5-of-21 shooting. Against the Jayhawks on Thursday, Honeycutt had 33 alone.
“We did a very poor job of attacking their zone, without a lot of patience,” Howland said. “We probably should have spent all our time yesterday on zone offense. We did not attack it well. We had a bunch of layups tonight we missed. Short, crippled shots. We were a step slow to everything.”
A two-possession game at halftime quickly blew up on UCLA, as Montana pushed the ball with ease despite 17 turnovers. The Grizzlies jumped to a seven-point lead six minutes into the game as the Bruins found little offensive rhythm, looking disjointed in the half-court game against a Montana squad with ample size in the post.
With 7-footer Derek Selvig and 6-foot-11 center Brian Qvale (13 points) pounding UCLA’s own big boys – freshman center Joshua Smith and sophomore forwards Brendan Lane and Nelson – the Grizzlies went into the half up 32-28.
It only got worse from there for the Bruins.
Montana shot 61 percent from the field in the second half, first punishing UCLA inside and then thriving in the running game when the Bruins tightened up. Point guard Will Cherry had a game-high 18 points, including 13 in the second half.
The Grizzlies led by as many as 17 with less than four minutes to play before a mini-UCLA run mercifully brought the Bruins to within double-digits.
“It’s early, but it’ a bad loss, no question,” Howland said. “We have to control our future by having better practices. It’s frustrating that it’s now always a given.
“This was a nightmare deal.”
UCLA’ uneven play brought out the boo-birds for the first time this season, as the team was 3-0 at Pauley Pavilion before the loss. The defeat was the Bruins’ fourth straight, as losses to Villanova and Virginia Commonwealth in the preseason NIT preceded the Kansas heartbreak and the Montana debacle.
Fans are now left wondering if the team will continue to tailspin, as it did last season, when the Bruins finished 14-18.
“The way we played, yeah (it reminded us of last year),” said UCLA junior guard Malcolm Lee, who led the team with 13 points. “Our capabilities, we could’ve played way better. I think we took this team just too lightly. Especially coming off a three-game losing streak. I think it was a hidden feeling that we almost beat Kansas.”