UCLA defense lacking effort, players say

Blowing an 18-point lead can be done. But to do so in eight minutes, against a team that had never before made the NCAA tournament? That takes a special kind of defensive nonchalance.

The general consensus among the Bruins two days after their 70-68 loss to Cal Poly was the team simply didn’t try hard enough. There were some factors with the youth adjusting to the college game and learning defensive principles, but the bottom line for everyone seemed to be effort.

“When teams run ball screens, sometimes they’ll switch them and sometimes we’ll trail it,” said freshman Jordan Adams. “Sometimes we’ll get confused. (We need to) just play harder. There’s no excuses. We need to play harder.”

Some players said more zone defense would be a good addition to the playbook, but Adams maintained that the team had the talent and athleticism to run a man defense properly. It all just comes down to — you guessed it — effort.

Point guard Larry Drew said that looking at film from the Cal Poly loss, it looked like players were putting more effort in on the offensive end than defensive — something many viewers likely picked up on during the first viewing.

Asked if that lack of effort traced back to practice, he agreed.

“Sure,” Drew said, sighing after a long pause. “I guess you could say that it starts in practice. I don’t think we had our best practices leading up to the prior game. You practice how you want to play and I think it showed.”

Some of this again points back to Howland. In addition to not having his talented players pushing themselves at the peak, he said that the Bruins haven’t been able to run fast enough because opposing teams are playing slow, patient basketball. When you allow unranked teams to dictate the pace, you’re probably not in a great place.

Wake-up call?

An overtime win against UC Irvine two weeks back should have snapped the Bruins into their expected selves. Then they lost to Cal Poly, which was picked to finish four spots behind the Anteaters in the Big West preseason poll. With one-loss Cal State Northridge coming up Wednesday night, UCLA players said that they’re not about to let up against another team from that conference.

“I think we took the team real lightly,” said freshman Shabazz Muhammad, who added that he was only about 80 percent of the way to full game shape. “Just really thought we won the game. You can’t come out like that, even when we’re playing teams that are not as talented as us.”

Added Adams: “This was a huge wakeup call. UCI almost upset us, but we were still in the same mode. This definitely was a wakeup call.”

He added that Muhammad’s recent return helped them brush off the close call against the Anteaters. Can’t use that excuse anymore.

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  • A lack of effort falls ultimately on the coach.

  • The Big Woof!

    Don’t forget lack of effort in rebounding. Cal Poly got a lot of offensive boards because our guys were not giving the effort or using the fundamentals they have been taught.