Bruins can’t catch up in rare loss to WSU, as Defense lacks relish again, allowing Rocheesie to flame-broil them for 33 points
Did “speeding it up” have an unexpected — and costly — ramification?
A few weeks ago, after the Bruins lost a couple of games, UCLA fans started calling for an overhaul of slow, plodding, physical Howland Ball, in favor of a faster, uptempo style of play. Well, it worked for a little while, as the Bruins went on a 4-game tear, but now there seems to have been some fallout.
In the last 4 games since the 4-game hot streak, the Bruins are giving up 15 more points per game than before, and the reason is lack of defensive intensity. The classic Bruin double-teams and subsequent rotations are no longer happening with the same passion and desire that the players have shown in the past. Even WSU scored big against them, winning on Saturday afternoon 82-81, behind a career-high 33 points from Taylor Rochestie.
Could the Defensive downturn be related to the Bruins’ recent attempt to speed up their style? Are they trying too hard to start fast breaks, at the expense of hard-nosed Defense and physical Rebounding?
Ben Howland has gotten to the Final Four the last three years, and two of those teams weren’t much more talented than the one he has now. Howland has achieved this impressive success with a proven blueprint of physical play and a slow, patient attack. Speeding up the game is not working — It’s time to go back to Howland Ball. It’s time to go back to being the team that puts on more Defensive pressure than the opponent does. It’s not too late. This is not Football. The Bruins do not need a #1 seed to make another deep Tournament run. All they need is to go on another hot streak, like the one where they rolled over sc, Notre Dame, Cal and Stanford, except this time they will need to do it the old-fashioned, Howland way.
The Bruins are capable of beating anyone on any given day, despite their recent inconsistency. Against bigger teams who might throw a zone at UCLA, the Bruins, who lead the Pac-10 in three-point shooting, will be forced to rely on outside shooting. And for once, that may be a GOOD thing. On Saturday, Nikola Dragovic hit 5 three’s en route to a career-high 23 points. So with Dragovic, Michael Roll, Josh Shipp, and Darren Collison all capable of knocking them down, the Bruins can NOT be counted out of any Tournament game. It would be better to win with penetration from Collison (who nicely split a couple of double-teams on Saturday) and Jrue Holiday (who seems to have hit a wall, and could be losing p.t. to Malcom Lee starting right now), but to go deep in the McDance, they will probably need to get searing hot from behind the (Golden) Arch.