Howland’s recruits blast off to a running start, using a speed-of-light transition game to rocket to a 95-59 win, despite going 3-for-21 from outer space

Apollo, Ohno!  The UCLA Bruins launched their Exhibition Season on Thursday night, starting the final countdown to the regular season, and for a nice change of pace from last year, they won easily, by running the floor and forcing an Apollo 13-like pace.  But oh, no — They still can’t shoot.

The Westmont Warriors came to Pauley Pavilion, and the Bruins quickly sent them into orbit, by running circles around them.  Right from the opening tip off, the Bruins raced down the court with every turnover and every rebound, fast-breaking to easy points.  With new Center Josh Smith clogging the lane, UCLA was strong defensively, creating repeated opportunities to beat the Warriors back to the other end.  Surprisingly, the main beneficiary of this speed was Power Forward Reeves Nelson, who continuously filled the lanes on breaks, taking the feeds to the hoop.  Nelson led the Bruins with 20 points — and with 10 rebounds — apparently loving his new spot away from the Center position, and his new #22 jersey.

New Starting Point Guard Lazeric (pronounced “La-ZER-ic”) “Zeke” Jones, who wears Nelson’s old #11, played well on both ends of the court.  On Offense, he showed the ability to penetrate and finish, which probably got him the starting nod.  The guy he beat out, Jerime Anderson, got plenty of playing time, and looked calmer and more focused than last year, and he too showed the ability to get to the hoop.

It’s a good thing that the Point Guards can drive, because the Bruins were much more effective inside than they were outside.  They shot only 14% from behind the arc, but 53% overall, thanks to all the transition hoops, a couple of beautiful alley oops, and 54 points in the paint.  Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee scored a dozen points each, but they too were better on the drive than they were jump-shooting.  More importantly, they both saw the floor well, and both of them executed several nifty passes to open men.

The most pleasant surprise was backup Center Anthony Stover, who scored 8, and Blocked FOUR shots.  He looked remarkably comfortable, considering his lack of experience, already making people see why Bobo Morgan was allowed to depart.  Stover got more playing time last night than was expected, because Smith sprained his thumb (not too seriously), and did not play in the second half.  Thanks to spurts of 11-0 and 14-0, UCLA built a 29-point lead by Intermission, so Smith wasn’t needed.  The big bulge (the margin, not Smith, who looked totally FIT at his 305 lbs.) allowed Bruin fans to see lots of p.t. for the backups, including Brendan Lane, Tyler Lamb, and Matt Carlino.  Unfortunately, none of those three were sparkling.  Lane failed to score a point, missing a couple of outside shots pretty badly, but he did put his now-heftier frame to use, muscling in for 6 rebounds.  Lamb and Carlino showed first-game nerves, but each had one good drive and finish, just flashing the potential that Howland obviously sees in them.

But the TEAM issues were the speed, the pushing of the ball, and the wacky decision to shoot so many three-pointers.  There is no more “walking the ball into the frontcourt.”  The Bruins scored 26 fast break points (compared to only 6 for Westmont), and constantly crossed the halfcourt line with over 30 seconds left on the 35-second clock.  For the first quarter of the game, UCLA was like a whirlwind.  Once they were up by 20, and Westmont adjusted their Zone Defense, the Bruins calmed down.

Against the trapping Zone, they were still able to get inside, and Smith and Stover did a great job keeping balls alive with Offensive Boards.  So the question is:  Why did the Bruins attempt so many three-pointers?  They missed 18 of 21 trey’s, even though the zone allowed most of the long-distance shooters to be wide open.  And sadly, there were a lot more bricks than in-and-out heartbreaks.  Bruin fans can only hope that this was just opening night jitters, as opposed to an omen that will haunt them all year, as it did last year.  No one wants to be saying in March that they miss Michael Roll and Nikola Dragovic.

These 18 misses were not taken to beat the shot clock — They were taken because the Bruins were taking what the Defense gave them.  They shot 4 of them in the first few minutes of the second half, so maybe if the game were closer, they would have tried to get it inside more.  Also, they were missing their starting Center by that time, so perhaps that threw the gameplan off a little bit.  Stover was able to seal off his man, but the Guards didn’t seem to want to feed him.  The next game will tell fans a lot more about whether last night was a fluke or not.

And don’t get hung up on this one negative.  There was plenty to be happy about, especially after last year’s troubles.  Westmont ran the famed Princeton Offense, but the Bruins got burned by it only about three times:  Once when a Stover hedge allowed an open man to get to the basket, and twice on classic back door cuts.   Otherwise, the Howland Man-to-Man Defense seemed to be in good shape.  And on Offense, the transition improvement should more than compensate for any poor shooting nights that may occur.

So overall, the game was a success — Especially after last year’s last-second, one-point win over Concordia.  When you win by 36, fans shouldn’t be too cynical.

However, I do have FOUR MORE COMPLAINTS — but they aren’t about the Bruins’ play.  First of all, the Bruins unveiled new uniforms.  WHY MESS WITH TRADITION AND PERFECTION?  Someone should tell Adidas to get a clue.  For some inexplicable reason, they made the jersey numerals bigger, so that they dwarf the iconic “UCLA.”  WHY?  WHY?  IN THE NAME OF JOHN WOODEN, WHY?  The TEAM should be more important than the individual.  Hopefully, they will get so much negative feedback, that they will reconsider, and have Adidas FIX them before the year is done.

Secondly, speaking of uniforms, why would the Dance Team wear SWEAT PANTS?  Why in the World would you want to cover up the best legs in the Nation???  I understand why they wear warm-ups in Winter Football games outside when its raining, but I don’t understand it inside Pauley.  They should see the movie “Extract,” where Jason Bateman explains that seeing his Wife in her her grey sweatpants is the ultimate mood-killer, and a sure sign of NOTHING to come.

Thirdly, even on the Internet Audio feed, when Westmont took Free Throws, you could clearly hear the famous brain-damaged (for real, not an insult) Bruin fan screaming at the top of his lungs.  And this was an exhibition game, and the shrieking continued, even when the Bruins were up by forty points!  In my opinion, this is low class, totally unnecessary, and casts UCLA in a bad light.  No offense to the brain-damaged, but this is NOT the guy I want to be the new face/voice of UCLA. 

And finally, Dan Guerrero should immediately take Dave Marcus, who called the game on Internet Radio, and give him Chris Roberts’ job, permanently.  Marcus did a great job, and never once asked his listeners to tell him what just transpired on the court.

That’s it.  Sorry for being so cynical to start off the year.  Remember — the bottom line is that the Bruins looked good, and are destined to finish with a winning record this season, and maybe even a winning record in the NCAA Tournament. 

[T-H’s Note:  No Cheerleader pics today, because I didn’t want anyone to mistakenly think that I was implying (with the Headline) that they are Space Cadets, because they absolutely are not.]


One response to “PACE CADETS”

  1. Rick Avatar

    Thank God Howland finally saw the light and decided to turn ’em loose–it’ll not only help them win now, but it is certain to facilitate recruiting as well!
    But what IDIOT is responsible for messing with the uniforms?! (And how ’bout a picture so we can see?)
    Didn’t they learn their lesson when Larry Brown was lambasted for going “Carolina” blue?
    It’s even more insulting now, as though they were waiting for Wooden’s passing to alter tradition (and why, indeed, would you ever wanna mess with THAT!)–besides, don’t they know that if HE wouldn’t have liked it, then we wouldn’t either?!!
    Where can we direct the phone calls/sign the petition to protest?