UCLA was supposed to be a resurgent program this year, but even after just the season’s first five games, most could tell the Bruins were a work in progress. That’s no excuse for losing to a middling Big West team, however — especially not after holding an 18-point lead in the second half.
Quick thoughts moving forward:
Zone defense: Ben Howland said he only wanted to use it “once in a blue moon” earlier this week, but he’ll likely change his mind after the mess that unfolded at Pauley Pavilion Sunday night. He attributed the lapses to lack of athleticism, youth and lack of focus. The first two aren’t easy fixes. The last is a big knock on the coach, who doesn’t have any excuses after reeling in a recruiting class that was ranked either first or second in the nation, depending on where you looked. Players admitted that the effort was lackluster on the backend, especially after the team went on a huge 21-6 run to open the second half.
Howland said in Brooklyn that he wanted to reserve defensive scheme switches to when the team is getting gashed, as it did against Georgia. If the man defense doesn’t become more effective soon, well … No. 25 San Diego State is coming up in less than a week.
Offensive identity: The team is still struggling to mesh together its many disparate pieces. Shabazz Muhammad look out of sorts to start the game, shooting just 3 of 8 in the first half and making just one more shot in the second. He shot 4 of 13 overall, but still finished with a team-high 15 points and 10 rebounds. He admitted he still needs time to find his way in the halfcourt attack, and expressed desire to run more transition basketball.
Kyle Anderson, who didn’t start the game as Howland tinkers with the lineup, took just two shots from the field and missed both. His one point came at the charity stripe, but he did add four assists, five boards, a block and two steals.
It’s a shame Jordan Adams hasn’t found more minutes in the backcourt logjam. He scored 13 points on 10 shots and nearly saved UCLA with a layup at 17 seconds.
A few telling quotes from the night (emphasis my own) …
From Ben Howland: “With 12 min to go, we had the ball up 18 and managed to lose the game.”
From Travis Wear: “We started making dumb plays.”
From Shabazz Muhammad: “It all comes down to rebounding. When it comes down to it, they got a lot of second chances. We got to buckle down and just want to rebound. We didn’t have any intensity out there on rebounding.”
… and “We didn’t play with heart at all on the defensive end.”
Extra note: Howland confirmed Lamb’s transfer was due to playing time. “He didn’t feel like he was going to be able to get the minutes that he wants. We support him and we wish him the very best.”