Weekend Update: Host Bruins finally get the last laugh on a Saturday, boxing up the Cougars 74-62, just as Howland sketched it up
“Lane, you ignorant slut!”
While Lane Kiffin of usc is (allegedly) already breaking rules at sc (by sending a Limo to a recruit?), Ben Howland of UCLA is already breaking TRADITION… and it’s working. Howland’s Bruins once again employed a previously-unthinkable Zone Defense for 40 minutes, and they LED the Cougars for 40 minutes, en route to a 74-62 win, the Bruins’ first SATURDAY Win of the Season in 6 attempts.
For the second game in a row, the Bruins’ opposition went stone cold from OUTSIDE, while being unable to find a way to get the ball INSIDE. The Bruin Zone Defense is getting better and better, but it did not truly cause Washington State to shoot that poorly. Just like the Huskies, the Cougars missed lots of open looks. Even the Pac-10’s leading scorer Klay Thompson (Laker Mychal Thompson’s son), who averages about 23 points a game (which is 5th in the whole Country) was a total non-factor (Not the first time a Howland Defensive scheme has defused a foe’s most explosive option). Only WSU’s Freshman phenom Reggie Moore was able to do anything against the Bruins, scoring 10 of the Cougars’ first 12 points, and finsishing with a game-high 24.
The Bruins were once again without Jerime Anderson, but Malcolm Lee ran the Offense with little problem. He had 4 Turnovers, but a team-leading 6 Assists (plus 6 Rebounds and 9 Points), and Mustafa Abdul-Hamid pitched in as well, scoring 8 points in a short stretch in the 1st Half. Mustafa made a Three-pointer, right after missing one, which shows the new-found confidence inspired by his game-winning buzzer-beater on Thursday. Mustafa got 18 minutes, and didn’t do anything (outside of one miscommunication Turnover) to motivate Howland to diminsh those minutes. Even when (if?) Anderson comes back, Abdul-Hamid will still have something to say about the rotation at Guard.
Abdul-Hamid helped the Bruins start to pull away from the Cougs in the 1st Half, as UCLA twice got the lead to 7, and finally to 9, at 30-21. But then UCLA went into a 2 and a half minute mini-drought, allowing WSU to cut it to 30-27 at the Half.
After the break, the Cougars — just like Washington on Thursday night — couldn’t hit a shot. They missed 11 of their first 12 shots after Intermission, as the Bruins slowly built the lead up to 15. Reeves Nelson played huge off the bench, leading the Bruins with 19 Points. He also grabbed 7 Rebounds, and continued to improve his Defense. According to Howland, James Keefe is starting over Nelson at Center because Keefe plays better Defense, and Ben wants the Bruins to get off to a strong start Defensively more than anything else.
On Saturday, Keefe didn’t let him down. Although Keefe did not score a point (again), he helped anchor the Bruin D, which did not allow anything inside. Keefe even Blocked 3 shots, and took a Charge. On Offense, he didn’t turn the ball over once, and he set lots of his trademarked screens, WITHOUT committing any fouls.
But it is still Tyler Honeycutt that seems to be making the biggest difference between the Bruins that stunk up the preseason (and the sc game) and the Bruins who just swept the Washington schools. Honeycutt led the Bruins with 8 Caroms, and scored 8 Points. He also added 3 Assists, 2 Blocks, and 2 Steals, as he continues to demonstrate more court sense and vision than any of his teammates.
Michael Roll is getting healthy again, slowly. He scored 11 with 5 Assists, and 4 Boards. And Nikola Dragovic hit two huge 3’s (3-4 from 3 overall) on his way to 18 Points, and his Defensive lapses were not exploited by Washington State. Howland’s Zone is designed to help out the Bruins’ Defensive weak links, including Drago and the slow Guards, and the plan is succeeding. The real test will be what happens when a team starts making 3’s in the 2nd Half. The Bruins will have to extend the Zone, and might finally become vulnerable. But until then, it’s fun to watch the team Defense develop, as the help rotations keep getting crisper and crisper.
On Offense, the Bruins look less chaotic, and more focused and precise in the way they execute a designed play every single time down the court. With Honeycutt involved quite a bit, the team passing has improved dramatically (speaking of “crisper and crisper”), with several players feeding Nelson inside for good looks and lots of fouls. When Anderson comes back, he is going to have to adapt, and make sure he doesn’t slow this Offensive progress. He is capable of contributing (if healthy), but he needs to let Honeycutt continue to touch the ball on almost every possession.
Thanks to poor Free Throw shooting by UCLA — 13-24 (55%) in the 2nd Half — the Cougars were able to cut the deficit to 7 with 1:46 left, but that’s as close as they got. WSU actually started hacking with 5 minutes left, but the Bruins made just enough to keep the Cougs at bay.
Turnovers were even, Rebounds were pretty even — The Difference in the game was SHOOTING. The Bruins hit 59% of their shots, including a scorching 74% in the 2nd Half, while the Cougars shot only 36% for the game. It has something to do with Defense, and a lot to do with SHOT SELECTION… and a little bit to do with: When you’re hot, you’re hot, and when you’re not, you’re not. In other words, the Bruins should definitely have a renewed confidence going into the impending Oregon trip, but nothing resembling complacency.
Today on a Bruin message board, someone took an uncool shot at the UCLA Cheer Squad (as opposed to the Dance Team), so here are 4 more shots that prove him clueless.