UCLA 65, Texas 63: How bad is the Bruins’ 3-point defense?

UCLA’s 65-63 win was about as ugly a showing of basketball as you’ll see all year, a sloppy affair that looked like two teams trying their best not to win. Longhorns coach Rick Barnes said as much afterward, stating that to him, UCLA hadn’t won; Texas had given the game away.

The Bruins ended the game on a 12-2 run, but that didn’t erase what was essentially a microcosm of the team’s defensive woes.

Poor 3-point defense: The eye test has been pretty clear: UCLA runs into significant trouble against good 3-point shooting teams, with San Diego State being the best example. But how do the stats break down? A few days ago, Ken Pomeroy wrote that 3-point defense shouldn’t be measured by opposing shooting percentage, but by the amount of threes opponents take at all. Teams have much more control in preventing threes entirely versus controlling how often they go in after they’re released.

Under Ben Howland, here’s where UCLA has ranked in 3PA% (percentage of field goal attempts taken from 3-point range):
2012-13 – 36.9% – No. 275 in the country, entering Saturday
2011-12 – 31.0% – 103
2010-11 – 25.8% – 10 (NCAA second round)
2009-10 – 33.3% – 203
2008-09 – 29.4% – 54 (NCAA second round)
2007-08 – 27.5% – 14 (Final Four)
2006-07 – 27.6% – 11 (Final Four)
2005-06 – 26.7% – 11 (NCAA runner-up)
2004-05 – 29.2% – 55 (NCAA first round)
2003-04 – 32.2% – 141

The correlation between the Bruins’ 3-point defense and success is strikingly clear, and this year is easily the worst of the Howland era. Saturday’s loss only reinforced this: against the Longhorns, the Bruins allowed 20 attempts from beyond the arc on 62 shots. Texas only made four. (The caveat that Texas has been chucking the ball with little success all season, but it’s still latest team to do so from long range against UCLA.)

Weak presence in the paint: The Wear twins struggles on defense are no secret, but freshman Tony Parker hasn’t shown much on that end of the floor either. UCLA evened up the points in the paint breakdown at the end of the game, but never really had an answer for freshman Cameron Ridley (6-9, 270) and sophomore Jonathan Holmes (6-7, 239). The former was particularly effective, scoring 14 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the field. The Longhorns shot 37.1 percent as a team.

Bright spots: A win, no matter how ugly, is still a win. (Cliche alert!) The Bruins didn’t play good basketball by any stretch of the imagination, but leaving Houston with a ‘W’ at least prevents any emotional implosion — which is always a plus when dealing with a young team that could still gather itself later in the season. The six straight home games coming up don’t hurt either.

Jordan Adams also continued his run as the team’s most impressive freshman with seven rebounds and a game-high 18 points, along with his game-tying “and one” layup. Norman Powell hasn’t seen the starting lineup since his costly foul against Cal Poly, and probably won’t make it back as long as Adams keeps this up.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.hersberger Mark Hersberger

    Why not just ask, How bad are the Bruins overall?

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