UCLA Review: Kibbles & Bits

Though this UCLA game marked the second win of the year over a ranked opponent, there is much more significance drawn out of this 10-point W in Westwood. Leaving no stone unturned, here are my exhaustive observations of the game, statistical and subjective.

  • This was a generally well played game, which made for an excellent basketball contest, regardless of the outcome. The ugly parts came primarily on Stanford's turnovers, which have continually been a problem for the Cardinal this year. Stanford had a strong momentum surge in the first half, and to close out the second half, during which the sloppy ballhandling and decisions were minimized. UCLA started the game strong, and took the lead in the second half, on Stanford turnovers. Most often, these manifest in UCLA transition buckets. For the game, 15 Stanford turnovers to just 11 assists. Are you kidding me? And this isn't a case of post players fumbling the ball away, as the trio of Card point guards logged just 7 assists versus 7 turnovers. Here were the core problems last night: Chris Hernandez just seizing up and losing the ball, usually after a good play; Teyo Johnson making bad inlet passes; and Josh Childress losing the ball after a rebound or a block. Josh needs lessons from Teyo on "owning" the ball after a board; Teyo needs to put more air under his lobs into Curtis; and Chris just needs to get seasoned.
  • Speaking of which, offensive charge fouls in transition are even worse than a turnover, as they take points of the board. Tony Giovacchini has got to learn to glide away from the defender after he dishes. He did it last night, and too many times this season he's bulldozed over a defender for a charge. You can't just hold your body rigid and think that is keeping your body under control. Lead with the foot opposite the side of your teammate, and spin away after the dish.
  • I posted this last night, but I'll repeat it: for all the greatness that came with Julius Barnes at the point guard last night, the real issue is our depth at the 2 and 3. Julius was able to play extended minutes at the point specifically because Josh played assertive basketball non-stop. Monty loves to have Josh in there when he is making plays, but his inconsistency in that has kept down his minutes. But where do you go if foul trouble befalls one or two of this trio: Julius, Casey and Josh? How do you give them breathers? This lineup pushes your two true point guards to the bench, and puts all your scoring guards and wings on the floor together. That can do great things, but is it sustainable? Can you start that lineup? I have my doubts. You need a high quality option off the bench to sub at the 2 or 3, and Stanford doesn't have that right now. Matt Lottich has shown flashes of good production, but has grave defensive lapses and makes headstrong offensive decisions. Nick Robinson has faded into the woodwork since Teyo arrived, moving Nick to his more natural small forward position. Teyo truly is the best answer, if Monty could afford to play him at the three, but Justin Davis' fouls:minutes ratio makes that impossible right now. If Jason Collins were still around, Curtis would start at the 4 alongside him, leaving Rob and Joe as pretty viable subs for a good frontcourt rotation. But that's a fantasy world, and Teyo is essential to the post rotation. So when you look up and down the bench, it's difficult to find the depth to start Julius with Casey and Josh. It's a great lineup, but the rotation can't be found behind it. This is the problem to solve this season. Let's keep chewing on it, or hope Lotty can accelerate his development.
  • Back to the game, now. While Chris had some struggles, and took a couple steps back last night, the overall play of Stanford's freshmen absolutely dominated that of UCLA's much heralded class. Considered to be one of the top three in the nation, and the #1 class in the Pac-10, UCLA's foibled four frosh scored a total of 3 points last night, on 0/8 shooting from the field, and 3/9 from the stripe. In sharp contrast, Josh Childress was one of the most impactful players in the entire game, leading his talented trio class to a total of 20 points, on 8/12 shooting from the field, and 2/4 from the stripe. Stanford's three frosh also outrebounded UCLA's gang of four, 14 to 6. Rob Little played his best game of the year, given his production, scarce mistakes and the context of the game. With Justin and Teyo saddled quickly with 4 fouls each, Rob logged a long stretch of the game alongside Curtis, playing great interior defense. He took and hit high percentage shots (2 of 3) and hit his free throws (2 of 2). Easily the unsung hero of the game.
  • One big problem to watch for in the Maples rematch will be Rob's matchups. He is in good shape if he has to defend Gadzuric, or even Barnes or Cummings inside, but his perimeter defense is a liability. The TJ on Rob matchup could have gone south in the second half, but TJ completely disappeared from the game. This guy is one of the great enigmas of the Pac-10, starting off the season like gangbusters. 20 points here, 17 points there. Boards galore. Unconscious from deep... but then he went into an effective coma, as if hibernating from basketball. The bad news was that he awoke like a sleeping giant in the first half last night, hitting from everywhere on the court, with 11 first half points. But in a microcosm of the season, he disappeared and didn't score in the final 21:24 of the game. Thank goodness.
  • The other great disappearing act of the game for UCLA was Billy "Thief in the" Knight. He's been the #1 Card Killer the past couple years, primarily at Maples. He has also been a serious threat at times this year for the Bru-crew, hitting for high double digits, and providing a very real third perimeter threat to go along with Jason Kapono and Matt Barnes. But last night, Knight hit just 2 field goals: 1 tip-in and 1 lay-up. But no jump shots went down. 0-7 from the rest of the field. This was a good example of some of the effective defense Stanford played in this game.
  • Overall, UCLA shot just 40% from the field against Stanford's defense. Most encouraging was the Card's perimeter defense, which held UCLA to 5 of 15 shooting. Matt Barnes had just 6 field goals and no treys, both his lowest in weeks. If you take out UCLA's dunks (five, to Stanford's zero), the Bruins shot just 35% from the field, as compared to Stanford's 49%. The signs were discouraging early in this Stanford season, but the D just might be back. Note that UCLA had hit for 17 and 12 treys in the recent Arizona and $C games, both times for better than 50%.
  • As for dunks, while both Gadzooks and Barnes got their jams on Sportscenter, those who watched the game will best remember the misses. Gadzuric had nobody between him and the hoop, placing it off the iron. Barnes had an alley-oop dunk and whiffed as well.
  • Stanford beat the Bruins in shooting, but gave up plenty on turnovers. That leaves rebounding as probably the decisive stat of the game. Stanford outboarded the Bruins 45-37 in the game. They also registered 8 blocks, as compared to UCLA's 2. I'd expect similar stats when these two face-off again in Maples, simply because the make-up of the two teams is predisposed to this outcome. Despite the early departure of Jason Collins, Stanford has more talent and depth in the post. And the real problem in Westwood that has led to this deficiency is Steve Lavin's recruiting. He pulls in top classes year after year, but he has inexplicably ducked big men. In this five-man class, he brought in a bunch of wings and one academically unqualified big man. The year before, he brought in TJ Cummings, who could be a great player, but who plays outside more like a small forward than a post. Lavin's just damned lucky that Gadzooks stuck around for this year, or he'd really be up the proverbial creek sans paddle. But he's dug himelf this hole, which could rear its head again in Eugene, by the way...
  • Speaking of Gadzooks, here is his final legacy for four years of playing and losing to Stanford. He had bookends of production, but very consistently kept himself out of the game with foul trouble. Never logging more than 20 minutes, despite being the one true center on his team...
  1999 2000 2001 2002 average
minutes 19 18 19 20 19.0
points 15 3 8 19 11.3
fouls 5 4 4 4 4.3
  • Additionally, Lavin has clearly hurt himself with point guard recruiting. Behind Earl Watson, he took Moose "Dough Boy" Bailey as a transfer, but noone else. So he lets four years slide by, and then decides to bring in a 6'6" point as a freshman, who he has to play 30+ minutes per game. That gives him too much variability in his point guard production, and no flexibility against different opposing point guards. For all the wailing and moaning that has gone on by Cardinalmaniacs on the HoopsBoard, Stanford does have quite a bit of flexibility with its three options. But when Julius was out there last night, he could do pretty much whatever he wanted to against the bigger and slower Bozeman. It's hard to believe that the program known as the most athletic West of the Mississippi is in this situation, but such it was last night against Stanford. Ryan Walcott, of course, is not the answer, and is admittedly not up to snuff for UCLA's putative standards. Just makes you shake your head when a class that contained Errick Craven, Aaron Miles and Chris Hernandez just occurred. Bozeman will have his day, but a better coach wouldn't have to play him 32 minutes as a frosh in the conference game of the year... and might not even play him at the point.
  • Bozeman's advantage is supposed to come when he can post up smaller guards, rebound, or play inside. None of that came to fruition in this game. Only once did he even try to post up his defender, Tony. That resulted in a foul before he even turned to the hoop, and he hit just one free throw. If this is his guy, Lavin had better figure out how to best use him.
  • Enough of Laugh-In; let's get back to the Card. Let's look at Casey. Awards he might win this season sure won't come from shooting percentage, which was his hallmark last season, but he clearly is one of the most impactful and dominant shooting guards in the country. I think some Iverson comparisons are becoming relevant, as Jake is forcing the issue by taking it to his defenders time and time again. He gets his points, every night, though sometimes on poor shooting. He got 20 last night, which was repeated in all the write-ups, on Sportscenter and on the news. But he shot 6 of 19, including 3 of 12 inside the arc. I don't quite know why, but Casey got to hoop an awful lot in the game, but just couldn't buy a basket. Still, he picked up free throws once again, where he continues to lead the team. The saving grace for his night, and for the Card, came in his second half perimeter shooting. He hit three clutch treys in the second stanza, which were his only made three-pointers in the game. He came through bigtime, though this team will really role when he can find the basket at a better clip.
  • Another interesting second half stat: Curtis Borchardt picked up all five of his fouls in the second half. It was he, not Gadzooks, who fouled out of the game. Although the final foul cam in the final minute of the game, when the Cardinal victory was sealed and signed. But despite coming under his average in points and boards, Curtis had a very solid game. The threat he provides from all spots on the court is unmatched, and creates some real problems for opposing coaches. Just look at two plays in this game: Curtis with the trail post trey, and with the reverse lay-up. He can extend a defense out to deep, but also has the athleticism and nimbleness to move the ball to his left hand while he hangs under the rim. Seriously, who in the conference is even moderatly suited to defend that in a 7-footer? His updated stats, by the way, are 8 for 13 from deep. Through 16 games, that's respectable, but is more important in that it signals the real threat of the three this year. He flashed the trey early his first two seasons and then abandoned it. But he has hit at least one in four straight games now, versus just four total treys in his first two years (32 games).
  • But this is all for naught if C-Bo can't stay healthy. Saturday marks at least a psychological barrier for Curtis, as he readies for U$C. In both his first two seasons, Curtis was hurt and lost for the season in the $C game. Both years, game #20. This year finds the Trojenz in game #17, but tens of thousands of fingers will be crossed between 3 and 5 pm Pacific Saturday.
  • Josh Childress also had some tough luck with fouls, finishing the game with 4. To this eye, three were very, very shaky. He did fall over a UCLA player when he lost control of his body once, but the other three looked like awful calls. He and Curtis skied for a rebound once, neither of them even touching or approaching a UCLA player. But Josh got an over-the-back call. Two other times, J-Chill had blocks that looked very clean, but were called. That's been a continuing problem, and one that probably will only pass with time. Brevin Knight was called mercilessly on steal attempts his first year or two at Stanford, before Pac-10 refs adjusted to recognize his quickness. In time, the zebras should recognize Josh's jumping and long arms, that will produce a handful of clean, legit blocks each game. He's had far more than 9 this year.
  • This is undoubtedly the craziest start to a Pac-10 season in recent memory. The preseason favorite, and Final Four contender, UCLA Bruins sit in 6th place. Arizona, who was ranked the highest in the conference to start this week, and who has the most excellent non-conference performance, sits just a half-game ahead in 5th place. Stanford, kal, Oregon and U$C are all tied for first. All six teams are within a game of each other. Serious parity. UCLA had a run of 11 of 12 games, but has dropped 2 straight. $C ran off 9 in a row, but has now lost 2 of 3. Oregon beat Stanford, kal and Arizona twice, but loses to Arizona State and Washington??? The only guys left smelling like relative roses are the NorCal kids. Both Stanford and kal started the conference 2 and 2, including losses to each other, but have the longest winning streaks running of 3 and 4 games, respectively.
  • OK, one more Lavin note. He really comes across badly on TV when he whines about calls. Monty has his arguments, as well, and works the officials plenty. But there is a demeanor and appearance that both Monty and Lute carry that Stevie just doesn't get. I think it's ultimately in his eyebrows. He raises them up in a fashion that makes his pleas and cries look like the wailings of a 8-year old who just got his bike taken from him. The answer: go talk to Jon Gruden. Now there is a guy who uses his eyebrows and facial expressions to carry himself well on the sidelines. When you're in the limelight, image is everything - especially in LA. These two are a study in contrasts.

Complete Box Score: Stanford 86, UCLA 76

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