Ben Howland, long known for his methodical halfcourt offenses, said he once used as many as 45 different sets.
In Saturday’s win at Stanford, the UCLA coach cut that number down to nine. After using around 18 to 20 for most of the season, he wanted to simplify the playbook even further for his young team coming off a quick turnaround.
Two days earlier, the Bruins had shot just 30.3 percent in the first half 76-63 loss at Cal. Against the Cardinal, UCLA shot 54.4 percent from the field.
“It’s all about execution and reading,” Howland said. “You have different reads: ‘If he trails me, I’m going to curl. If he goes ball side screen, I’m going to fade. If he fades, I have to shorten the pass. If he goes underneath, I have to re-screen.’” Continue reading →
UCLA basketball is clearly set on one task: to make choosing its worst game as hard as possible.
The Bruins’ 76-63 loss at Cal probably doesn’t beat out their early-season faceplant to Cal Poly, but it belongs in the conversation. UCLA was unsightly through the first half, going without a free throw and — until the final minutes of the period — nearly being outscored by the Bears’ star swingman Allen Crabbe. Before the break, the Bruins shot a hair above 30 percent and trailed by as much as 28.
Ben Howland and his players constantly acknowledge that they need to hit the boards harder, hold their blockouts longer. Rarely is an explanation given other than lack of effort or focus. Yet, UCLA was abused on the glass by forwards Richard Solomon and David Kravish — both wiry specimens who aren’t listed above 235 pounds. The pair combined for 21 rebounds and 35 points, with Kravish scoring a career-high 18.
Cal finished with a 41-33 edge on the boards, the sixth time in seven games that UCLA has trailed by at least eight rebounds. The Bears, who entered the game relying on Crabbe and point guard Justin Cobbs for over 50 percent of their scoring output, dominated the Bruins with 46-20 points in the paint. Continue reading →
UCLA (18-5, 8-3) at Cal (14-9, 6-5) Tipoff: 6 p.m., Haas Pavilion TV/Radio: ESPN2/AM 570
At a glance: The last time UCLA saw Cal, the Bears were inking a slot in the NIT. Mike Montgomery’s team arrived at Pauley Pavilion three days into the new year, and proceeded to miss all 13 of its 3-point shots. Combined with another 0-fer performance against Harvard a week prior, Cal left Westwood with an ignominious streak of 19 long-range misses and a 79-65.
The Bears are looking better as of late, having knocked off both Oregon and Arizona in their past three games. Taking down top-10 teams isn’t a bad way to get your first two wins of the season against top-100 RPI opponents, and in doing so, Cal has managed to inject some faint NCAA tournament hopes into a season that was looking like the worst of Montgomery’s five-year tenure.
“His teams have always improved throughout the year and this team’s no exception,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said of Montgomery.
Added UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad: “They’re looking really good. We played them down here and they didn’t play as well. We didn’t play as well either. We’re really going to be ready for them.” Continue reading →
The final score was 76-62, but UCLA’s win over Washington State felt far more out of reach than the final tally. It was likely the Bruins’ easiest win since beating Long Beach State 89-70 on Dec. 18. Washington State came out firing and made five straight 3-pointers to open the game, but over nine minutes without a field goal at Pauley Pavilion. In that span, the home team opened up a opened up a 15-point lead that never fell into single digits.
UCLA shot at least 60 percent from the field for the first time since Feb. 18, 2010 — another win over Washington State — and above 50 percent for the first time at home this season against a conference opponent.
Despite that embarrassing loss to USC last week, the team still sits just one game out of first place in the Pac-12.
– Facing a team that tried to slow the pace of the game, UCLA ended up with its highest assist total since defeating Fresno State in December. The Bruins notched 22 assists on 31 field goals, generating much better looks at the basket than the forced shots that went up against Washington on Thursday night. Continue reading →
Looks like the UCLA offense may have finally woken up.
After three straight games shooting below 40 percent, the Bruins are humming along against Washington State. A 39-24 halftime lead almost feels too narrow given how terrible the Cougars looked through the first 20 minutes, which saw them go without a field goal for over nine minutes. WSU opened the game with three straight 3-pointers, but ended up shooting just 34.8 percent in the first half.
UCLA has also forced two shot clock violations, scoring 11 points off Washington State’s 11 turnovers. The Bruins are shooting 58.6 percent from the field, have assisted on all but three of their 17 baskets, and hold a 20-4 scoring edge in the paint. Meanwhile, Cougars center Brock Motum — the team’s leading scorer at 18.2 points per game — has four points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Shabazz Muhammad has a game-high 12 points, as well as two rebounds and two assists.
Larry Drew II made a buzzer-beater to beat Washington last night, his second game-winner of the season. Most of his teammates mobbed him. Shabazz Muhammad, who openly clamored for the ball, did not.
“Yeah, I wanted the ball,” Muhammad explained last night. “But Larry is such an aggressive player. When the ball went up, I knew it was going to be good. Everyone was on him and attacking him. I was like, I know Larry is going to have something broken or he’s going to have some scratches. I was going to wait until he got up to congratulate him.”
Head coach Ben Howland agreed today with Muhammad’s concern about potential injuries, and said the star was very happy for Drew: “I think it was overblown. I really do. I think it’s, y’know, another thing that gets blown out of proportion.”
Maybe, but how often do you see players not celebrate a buzzer-beater?
Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson all landed on the midseason watchlist for the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award — a 12-man group selected by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association. The news isn’t a huge surprise given that the trio accounts for 52.7 percent of UCLA’s scoring and 45 percent of its rebounding.
At a glance: Freshman Shabazz Muhammad called this game a “gotta-win,” something that still holds true after Oregon held on to beat Washington State last night after trailing by 10 at halftime. The Ducks remain the only Pac-12 team undefeated through conference play, and will hold a two-game lead over the loser in Tucson.
Junior forward Travis Wear echoed those same thoughts: “I think we’re all feeling that way right now. … This is a big week for us. We’ve got to get two wins to keep us up there near the top.”
– Arizona has plenty of size with its freshman trio of Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett all measuring at least 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds, but gets rebounding contributions Continue reading →
A year ago, Travis Wear finished as one of the Pac-12′s leading rebounders — at least on one end of the court. The UCLA forward ranked second with 2.87 offensive boards per game, behind only Colorado’s Andre Roberson.
This season, that number has dipped to a paltry 1.52 per game. He isn’t sure why.
“I don’t know. I feel like I’m making an effort to go to the boards,” Wear said. “I just need to make even more of an effort now. I think I was getting three a game at this point last year. I’m not getting that right now, but I’m capable of it.”
The 6-foot-10 junior is averaging 16.7 points over his past seven games, and agreed that — armed with renewed confidence in his jump shot — he is using his face-up game even more than he did last year. He added that it shouldn’t affect his tenacity Continue reading →
This was a fairly comfortable win for the Bruins, who led by double digits for the vast majority of the second half. It’s worth noting that UCLA still has some trouble boxing out; despite Oregon State missing the nation’s sixth-leading rebounder in Eric Moreland (suspension), the visitors had 35 rebounds to UCLA’s 37.
The Bruins have won 10 straight for the first time since 2008-09, and five straight to open conference play for the first time since 2003-04, Howland’s first season.
– Travis Wear had a sixth straight double-digit scoring effort with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Two of his seven rebounds also came on offense, the first time he’s had multiple offensive boards since grabbing four against Missouri.