Bruins find a new Lee-der: The Blue & Gold fall to the Golden Domers, but strike gold in Malcolm Lee, who scOREs 29, and is starting to pan out after being panned all year
It’s never fun to lose to the school that has given the World Digger Phelps, Bill Laimbeer, and Kelly Tripucka, but if you’re going to lose to them, it’s always nice if you find yourself a bonafide Star during the game.
UCLA gave a decent effort in South Bend, showing marked improvement, but couldn’t stay with Notre Dame, losing 84-73 in the young Bruins’ first contest in a hostile environment. The Irish crowd did not intimidate Sophomore Malcolm Lee, who set a career-high in Scoring for the second game in a row, with 29. Lee was on fire, hitting from all over the court, and at one point absolutely CARRIED the Bruins, with 12 straight UCLA points. Lee went 11-17 on the day, 4-6 behind the arc, and 3-4 from the line. He also dished out 4 Assists (to only 1 Turnover), blocked a shot, and got a Steal too.
Lee’s confidence skyrocketed to another Planet during the Second Half, when he started dazzling the crowd with a dizzying array of drives, short j’s, and three’s. And the shots were falling. You could suddenly see why he was so highly-regarded out of high school. When he was in The Zone, he looked like a whole new player — one that could easily be one of the best players in the Pac-10.
Now if only Jerime Anderson had continued HIS trend of improvement. JA followed up his best game with a big regression. A 7-foot Airball that got him chanted at for a portion of the game was just the tip of the iceberg. In his 28 minutes at the Point, he failed to score a basket, and turned the ball over twice. He also got beat on Defense repeatedly, which exposed the Bruins’ still-developing and very vulnerable Help-Defense. He even fouled a player on a three, giving ND a 4-point play. At least Anderson had 5 Assists and a Steal, which still might be better than what his back-up, Mustafa Abdul-Hamid would get. Some fans are screaming for Anderson’s head — or at least his minutes — and for Abdul-Hamid’s insertion into the line-up. Abdul-Hamid HAS made a couple of nice outside shots and one beautiful driving lay-up, but if you remember, in the one game that he started, he was not able to run the Offense effectively, not even compared to Anderson. But there is also another option that it being called for loudly by fans: Putting Lee at the Point, and bringing in Tyler Honeycutt at Forward. Coach Ben Howland did give Honeycutt some time, with JA on the pine, and the team looked pretty good.
The PROBLEM is that the best thing the Bruins have going for them right now is the success of Malcolm Lee at Shooting Guard. So do you really want to mess with that success and have him suddenly be responsible for totally running the offense too? The team may be better off with Anderson — IF he shakes off the jitters of playing in that Notre Dame arena, and shows more of the talent that he flashed against New Mexico State. If not, then the Bruins will have to seek other alternatives. As it is, Anderson’s minutes will probably start to drop right now, and if Honeycutt can find his jumper, Anderson may really pine for action. If only Honeycutt could run the Point, ala Lamar Odom.
Honeycutt wasn’t the only Freshman to assert his value to the team on Saturday. Center Reeves Nelson was an ANIMAL, actually deuling the Irish’s All-American Center Luke Harangody to a draw… until Nelson picked up his second foul and had to take a seat. The Bruins, behind Nelson’s stellar INSIDE performance and Lee and Michael Roll’s outside shooting, along with Nikola Dragovic’s renewed vigor, especially on the glass, held the lead for most of the First Half. Drago got 8 Boards, and even delivered a wicked bakdoor pass that was UCLA’s Assist of the Year.
Harangody missed his first four shots and didn’t score for the first 11 minutes of the game. But he finally erupted, and when Nelson went out, Notre Dame took over. With Senior James Keefe injured and out, the Bruins were stuck with Bobo Morgan and Brendan Lane as back-ups at Center, and neither one of them could hold their own against the Irish. Notre Dame went on a 20-10 run, fueled by Offensive Rebounds, to take a 40-36 lead into the Half.
The Irish added to the lead in the Second Half, and pretty much controlled the game, but Lee’s onslaught kept it close. The Bruins never quit, and actually made it a two-possession game with just over a minute to go, but couldn’t get any closer. But with Lee’s coming-out party, Nelson netting a hard-earned 11 Points, 8 Rebounds and 2 Steals, and with Roll notching another 5-trey night, the Bruins are in much better shape than they were two weeks ago. If Drago can find his missing perimeter shot, the Bruins will not be a laughingstock in the Pac-10…
But it looks like they are going to have a helluva time avoiding a sweep at the hands of usc. The trojans just crushed #9 Tennessee 77-55, thanks to a brand new Point Guard named Gerrity, and a big performance by big man Alex Stephenson. It looks like the only thing that will prevent the trojans from cheering “Just like football” at Pauley this year will be the NCAA, who just might respond to Rover-gate with sanctions that demoralize every single trojan athlete in every major sport.
Meanwhile, Ben better have a doozy of an alternate plan to BeatSC, “just in case” the NCAA justs SITS THERE with their thumbs up their asses, while usc continues to thumb their noses at them, from the Drivers’ Seats of their pimped-out Land Rovers.
And now, here are 10 UCLA Cheer photos for you to give a “thumbs up.”