Speaking of BLOCKING, Time Warner Cable may start blocking Fox today, including Prime Ticket and Fox Sports West.

Blowing a 16-point lead to lose on New Year’s Eve would have been extremely “(cham)pagne-ful.”

Happy New Jer, 20(1-0):  Jerime Anderson refuses to let the ball drop, with a game-saving block as the Countdown hits zero, in UCLA’s 72-70 victory over ASU that skyrockets the Bruins to 1-0 in the Pac-10 and 1st Place

The Bruins saved their best for last.

On the final day of 2009, the ’09-’10 Bruins played their best game of the year, beating the 10-4 Arizona State Sun Devils, 72-70.  During the 1st Half, the Bruins looked NOTHING like the team that floundered through the Preseason, as they hit 83% of their shots on the way to a 42-31 Halftime lead.

The Bruins were led in the 1st Half by Nikola Dragovic, who scored 13 of the Bruins’ first 17 points.  He hit 5 straight three-pointers to carry UCLA early, but even with the Bruins’ hot shooting — and with the frigid shooting of ASU star Derek Glasser — UCLA could not pull away… until they went to a Zone defense.  Bruin Coach Ben Howland finally relented on his reluctance to employ a Zone, after he watched ASU repeatedly exploit his team’s Man-to-Man.  The Devils were able to make quick passes that hit cutters by the basket, often taking advantage of the Bruins’ slow rotations after hedging.  The Devils also were able to drive around the Bruins for easy penetrations.  Not only that, but Sun Devil Rihards Kuksiks was on fire (scoring 15 in the Half on perfect shooting).  So Howland put the Bruins in a 2-3 Zone, and it worked.  The Bruins went on a 17-6 run, most of it while employing the Zone.  ASU got a little disoriented by it, and didn’t know exactly how to attack it.  They also missed some open shots, to make the Zone look even better.  The Bruins rode it to a 14-point lead, and finally, an 11-point Halftime lead.

After the break, the Bruins came out with a quick 5 points, to go up by a game-high 16, but then it all fell apart.  The Bruins suddenly lost all their poise, turning the ball over again and again.  They amassed 14 Turnovers for the game (compared to only 6 for ASU), “led” by Malcolm Lee and Dragovic, with 4 each.

As the Devils cut the gap, Howland went back to the Zone, but this time it didn’t pay off.  The Sun Devils started hitting the outside jumpers that the Zone allows, and the Bruins struggled to block out and get Rebounds.  The Zone — and 4 straight Bruin Turnovers — allowed the Devils to go on a 17-4 run.  And that was with NO help from Kuksiks, who did not make a Field Goal after the Intermission, as Howland continues to have a KNACK for shutting down the opposing team’s biggest offensive threat. 

But ASU whittled the lead down to ONE Point.  The Bruins of the Preseason would have folded, but the Post-Gordon Bruins showed plenty of character.  They built the lead back up to 9, with about a minute and a half to go, but could NOT put it away at the Free Throw Line.  Glasser finally got hot and scored 7 straight for ASU down the stretch, while Anderson hit 2 Free Throws after a “Hack-a-Jerime” but made only 1 of 2 on his second trip, right after Michael Roll missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  Then Lee missed 1 of 2 twice in a row.

So the Bruins were up by 2 with under 20 seconds left, when they got the ball to Drago — their best Free Throw shooter — at halfcourt.  But instead of just holding on to the ball and getting fouled, he threw a risky but flawless behind-the-back pass to Reeves Nelson right by the basket.  Drago had a defender coming at him on one side, so, strangely, it “made sense” that Drago wrapped the ball around his body — away from the defender — to protect and get rid of the ball.

He whipped it dead on target to Nelson, who went up for the easy score, but was fouled hard and sent to the line.  There were 14 seconds left, as Nelson, who is 56% on the year but was 4-5 in this game so far, bricked the first one, and barely missed the second one, on an in-and-out heartbreak, that almost bounced in a second time.  But it didn’t, and ASU grabbed the rebound.

The Devils did not call a time out — they just went straight at it.  You would think that Glasser would be the one to take the final shot, but they worked the ball around to the open man, who turned out to be Josh Shipp’s brother Jerren.  And with time expiring, Shipp launched a three-pointer to try to WIN the game.  But out of nowhere, Jerime Anderson came flying at Shipp, and partially blocked the shot, which fell helplessly short into the hands of Dragovic.

It was an amazing defensive play, that saved the day, on a day that might keep the Jerime-haters quiet, at least for 48 hours.  Anderson played the Point for 36 minutes, committing only 2 Turnovers, versus 6 Assists, 6 Rebounds, and a Block.  He also scored 10 points on 3-4 shooting.  In fact, all 5 Starters scored in double-figures, with Nelson also scoring 10, Roll with 12, Lee with 16, and Dragovic with a career-high 23.  The Bruins shot 63% on the game, and when they do that, everyone will look good, including Anderson.

James Keefe came back from his shoulder injury to contribute 12 minutes, in which he got 3 Rebounds, an Assist, and 1 Point.  He also looked pretty good on Defense, still quicker than Bobo in getting back from the hedge.  Bobo and Brendan Lane played only 2 minutes each, as Howland stuck to his small group of proven players, which now includes Tyler Honeycutt.  Tyler had 2 excellent Assists, a Block, and 2 Rebounds in his 11 minutes, still looking like he has more court sense than his more-experienced teammates.

His good passing was contagious:  The Bruins had 17 Assists, to only 11 for ASU.  The Bruins won the Rebounding battle too.  The one glaringly weak stat for UCLA was Steals.  The Bruins had only 1 Steal for the entire game, and that was Nelson’s.  How can the 3 Bruin Starting Guards play a combined 109 minutes, and not intercept a SINGLE pass?  Is this another negative consequence of the Zone?  Are the Bruins too passive on the perimeter, especially when playing a Zone?

The Zone may be effective in spurts, especially to surprise and temporarily confuse the opponents, and against certain teams that are difficult to match up with, may make sense, but it may be wiser for UCLA to concentrate on increasing the tenacity of their One-on-One defense, and on speeding up their help-rotations.  Relying on teams to miss jumpers consistently is NOT the key to success.  That is probably why the Bruins utilized their Man-to-Man Defense exclusively in the final minutes, when the game was on the line.

[**Note:  There are some discrepancies between the box score at and other sources (and reality).  The Bruins’ 83% shooting in the 1st Half on 15-18 shooting is in dispute (could have been just 75%), and it lists JA with only 1 Block, but he got one on a short ASU baseline shot attempt, and then of course, the game winner.]

Happy New Year to all non-trojans.  May 2010 be the Year that the Hammer (of the NCAA Gods) finally falls on usc.

Looks like Anderson will continue to be introduced as a Starter for a while.

Sweeping the Arizona schools would be a helluva way to kick off the New Year!


One response to “NEW YEAR’S BLOCKIN’ EVE”

  1. SVCATOSCMO Avatar

    Didn’t Baron Davis also wear #5? Unfortunately, that’s where the comparisons end.