UCLA erases double-digit deficit and flattens Bakersfield, putting game-and-a-half hiccup in Howland’s run of success behind them
It took 2 exhibitions and 65 minutes of the season for UCLA to remember that they are UCLA.
On Friday night, the Bruins slowly bounced back from their depressing Opening Night, double-overtime loss, by coming from behind to beat Cal State Bakersfield, 75-64. The Roadrunners thoroughly outplayed the Bruins for the first 15 minutes, outshooting, outhustling, and out-executing the Bruins in every way imaginable. Bakersfield built a 31-20 lead, while the Bruins continued to miss 3-pointers and turn the ball over too much.
Playing without Nikola Dragovic, who got arrested for Felony Assault (he was CLEARED last time he was accused, so let’s withhold judgment), the Bruins started the game playing just as poorly as they did against CSUF. Jerime Anderson picked up two early fouls, which brought Mustafa Abdul-Hamid into the game, but he wasn’t the problem. Regardless of who was in, the Bruins allowed the ‘Runners to keep penetrating to the hoop, and on the other end, UCLA couldn’t take advantage, of a short, chaotic zone Defense that had glaring holes. But with about 5 minutes to go in the first half, the light finally came on for the Bruins (sort of like it did for the UCLA FOOTBALL Offense late in the Oregon State game).
The Bruins finally settled down, and started exploiting their advantages, especially their length advantage. They started to get the ball inside (instead of bricking 3’s), and Drew Gordon made it pay off. In addition to his career-high 3 Blocks on the Defensive end, Gordon really excelled against the Roadrunners’ front line on Offense, scoring a career-high 19 Points on a series of dunks and one-handed mini-hooks. Reeves Nelson repeated his own success of game 1, again being a FORCE in the paint. Nelson scored 8 and grabbed 6 more Boards. Surprise-Starter James Keefe stepped it up a bit, scoring 10, getting some big put-backs when the game was still close. The Bruins used a 10-0 run at the end of the first half to make it 35-35 at Halftime.
The Bruins came out of the locker room and immediately continued the onslaught, making it an 18-1 run overall. The Bruins played better Defense, shot the ball better, and figured out how to find the open man with the ball. The Bakersfield trapping zone was flawed, and presented open guys underneath all night long — It just took Howland a while to get his players to exploit it. When they did, they went on a 30-point switch, from being down by 11 to being up by 19. Howland emptied the bench at the end, allowing the Roadrunners a chance to make the final score respectable.
Who would have thought that Bobo Morgan would get in ONLY when the bench is cleared? Even Brendan Lane and Mike Moser got some quality minutes, (way) ahead of Morgan. When Morgan DID come in, he had a fantastic Blocked Shot (as did Gordon earlier, on a failed dunk attempt).
Malcolm Lee supplied the other highlight play, with a driving reverse lay-up late in the game. The move exhibited the ability that Bruin fans have been counting on but haven’t seen too much this season. Lee scored 10, on inconsistent shooting, including some shots that missed by miles. But fortunately, all 5 Starters scored in double-figures, as Michael Roll added 12 and Jerime Anderson had 10.
Roll and Anderson both started slowly, but both came around nicely. Roll finally started to hit his shots, and Anderson actually made a driving lay-up, a three-pointer, and a nice two-point jumper after passing up a longer shot and moving in a little closer before popping. No doubt Anderson played better than he did against Fullerton. He still shows some glaring weaknesses, blowing an unguarded lay-up and turning the ball over 4 times, including getting the ball stripped right away from his dribble, but he played much better than last week. With Anderson coming off a 5-week injury layoff, each tiny improvement is good news, and bodes well for the future. And by the way, there certainly doesn’t seem to be any lack of effort or caring on his part, so hopefully, fans will be supportive while he tries to find his way.
The way Gordon and Nelson — and even Keefe — were able to score inside, it is possible that Anderson will be able to guide an effective Offense, without having to be a great shooter this season.
Here is one more batch of UCLA Cheer photos (from the most recent Football game), to hold you until new ones from today’s ASU game are ready for publication. Enjoy.