ILL-EAGLE PROCEDURE — Eastern Washington claws UCLA’s 14-point lead down to 2 in the 2nd Half, and is down only 5 with 7 minutes left, before Bruins finally soar away, 60-47

The Talent Gap favored UCLA.  The TALON Gap favored the Eagles.  And that Talon Gap meant that EWU outhustled and out-clawed the Bruins for over 30 minutes, grabbing almost every loose ball, and dominating the Boards despite a height disadvantage.  That superior effort allowed the outmanned Eagles to give the Bruins a tough fight, coming back from 14 down to make it a 2-point game with 14 minutes left.  The Eagles kept pushing, finding themselves down only 5 with 6:45 to go.  But at that point they couldn’t make enough shots to stay in contention.

They also couldn’t handle Josh Smith underneath, as the Bruin Center got a few key Points down the stretch.  Those were augmented by a three-pointer by Tyler Lamb, who also hit 4 straight Free Throws in crunchtime to put the game away.  But Lamb, despite his 14 Points (including 2 Trey’s), 4 Rebounds, 2 Assists, and 2 Steals, was NOT the team MVP.  That honor belongs to Lazeric Jones, without whom the Bruins would have been upset.  Zeek hit three straight Three’s at the start of the game, scoring 11 of his game-high 19 Points before Halftime.  And in the 2nd Half, Jones scored on two sweet penetrations, and his ball-handling diffused any pressure that the Defense tried to apply.  In the 1st Half, Lazeric basically CARRIED the Bruins to a 14-point lead, and his dunk at the Halftime buzzer gave the Bruins a 28-18 lead heading into the locker room.

It’s a good thing that Jones brought his A game (for his 3rd MVP game in a row), because most of his teammates took the night off.  De’End Parker is still out injured, and Travis Wear joined him in street clothes, with a newly-injured foot.  Of course Reeves Nelson is no longer a member of the team, so that meant 3 Forwards from the original roster were not playing.  That led to Brendan Lane being needed.  He perfectly swished one mid-range jumper, but didn’t add much else.  Josh Smith had foul trouble again, due to bad choices, and didn’t really contribute until the end of the game.  David Wear seemed homesick for his absent Twin, missing 6 of his 8 shot attempts, and getting 2 less Defensive Rebounds than his Point Guard.  And worst of all was Jerime Anderson, who played like he did when the whole fan base considered him a total recruiting bust.  Jerime went 1-for-9 from the field, missing wide open shots badly.

Jones DID get a little help from two reserves:  Anthony Stover, who had 3 Blocks and who nicely finished off an Alley-oop with a two-handed slam, and Norman Powell, who scored 4, including 2 on a smooth pull-up jumper in transition.  Powell also grabbed 3 Rebounds in his 14 minutes.  He must be doing something wrong, maybe on Defense, to warrant getting only 14 minutes, while Lamb gets 37, and the slumping Anderson gets 34, but I really don’t know what it is.  His upside looks higher than Lamb’s, so it seems like only a matter of time before Powell breaks through.  But Howland favors Defense, so Lamb — who did actually have a better Offensive game on this night — still has the apparent advantage over Powell.

The Bruins stayed in Man-to-Man Defense almost exclusively, because the Eagles are a 3-point shooting team, so there is NO EXCUSE for letting EWU come up with NINETEEN Offensive Rebounds (compared to only 7 by UCLA).  It was all about awareness, attitude, desire, and hustle, and the Eagles had a monopoly on all of that until the end of the game.  And effort like this from the Bruins against Pac-12 teams will not cut the mustard, or ketchup & mustard.  The Bruins escaped because the Eagles shot only 26% for the game.  Sure, PART of that was intelligent Defense, but EWU also missed a lot of easy shots that they had been making in their previous games.  As usual with a Ben Howland team, the opponent’s featured player had a horrible night, missing his first 9 shots, before finally scoring with just 9 minutes left.  Again, it’s PARTLY due to good Defensive planning and execution, but it’s also due to the guy just having a very OFF night.  GOOD THING, because the Bruins didn’t have a very large margin of error.

The Eagles were supposed to be a run n’ gun team, but they shocked the Bruin scouts by playing a TOTAL SLOWDOWN game, STALLING away 25 seconds out of every possession for the entire first half.  The strategy was meant to shorten the game and just keep it kind of close, limiting the amount of possessions.  But it backfired, taking them out of their rhythm, and causing them to commit a slew of unforced errors.  In the 2nd Half, when they started to play normally, they had ZERO Turnovers for about 15 minutes, and they cut the lead to almost nothing.  The Eagle Coach, who is coincidentally bald (Bald Eagle?), must be kicking himself, and probably won’t sleep tonight, dreaming about a do-over.  If the Eagles weren’t so cold, and weren’t taking the air out of the ball, they probably would have taken the game right down to the wire.

As it turned out, the Bruins pulled away to win by 13, 60-47, making Howland the second-winningest Coach in UCLA History, passing Jim Harrick, and trailing only Larry Farmer…  Just kidding — Obviously he trails only John Wooden.  🙂

The Bruins play next on Saturday, against UC Davis, who lost to Eastern Washington earlier this year by 20 points.  But don’t assume that UCLA will kill them — The Aggies will obviously be more fired up for UCLA, and, the Eagles could obviously be much more effective when they get hot from behind the arc, which I’m guessing they did against Davis.  If Anderson continues his slide, and if the Bruins are still missing two players and have to use Lane, no game is a gimme.