Editor's Note: The following story contains commentary from the writer's "real-time" views of the on-court performances and decisions of our men's basketball team. In no way should constructively-intended criticism be deemed as a lack of respect or admiration for our team's obvious desire and commitment.
UCLA outrebounded Stanford 21-5 on the offensive glass and 43-35 overall. The 21 offensive boards allowed and 4:1 ratio are season worsts.
UCLA shot a season-worst 9-of-21 (39 percent) from the free throw line.
UCLA outscored Stanford 15-3 off turnovers, winning the turnover battle 10-4.Trent Johnson:
Tough, tough, tough. We broke down defensively in a couple of key situations down the stretch. I thought their athleticism caused us problems. But I'll tell you what: I'm proud of my guys. They fought. They fought. They made plays. It's a good team. It's a good team we played. I just wish we could have been in situations where I could have helped more, but congratulations to UCLA.
On what situations the team was in where he could have helped more:
There are some situations where we could have gotten better shots off, but without looking at the tape, it's hard to say.
Good player, good player. His penetration was tough, we got ourselves leveled, but he made some nice plays. In a game like this, it's just a possession here or there, and I thought we did a good job early of keeping the tempo to our liking.
I ask whether he'd do anything differently, such as zone more, if he faces a guy like Collison in the Tournament:
No, just from the standpoint that we played them three times and it could have gone either way. We broke down defensively, we didn't rebound – any one guy didn't beat us.
I beg to differ. Collison was 12-of-22 for 28 points in a game we lost by three. He scored 24 against Stanford last week at Pauley. Despite what Mitch Johnson says later, Collison was having his way driving past our point guard for layups and easy dishes when we were in a straight man defense. I also think his ability to penetrate forced the twins to come out of position to attempt to block his shot, which partially explains our getting absolutely killed on the offensive boards.
The logic is also faulty. Just because we played them close the last two games doesn't mean there aren't aspects of our strategy that should change. And obviously a zone has drawbacks: UCLA's left open for threes (and their lack of deep shooting might be what knocks them out in the Big Dance) and boxing out on rebounds becomes much more difficult. But given that UCLA was only 4-of-15 deep today, given that we couldn't have done worse on rebounds anyways, given that the next-highest Bruin scorer had only 12 and given that the zone seemed to slow Collison's drives, and force him into jumpers that he wasn't hitting, I would have liked to have seen more zone earlier in the second half, perhaps as UCLA was making its 11-0 run. Try something different to throw them off.
To me, UCLA was missing a starter, its other four starters had played 36+ minutes the night before, and arguably their best player (Love) was bothered by a bad back throughout the game. Plus, they spotted us ten points on their missed free throws. And we were ahead by four early in the second half. Coming close doesn't really sit well.
On the Pac-10 Tournament as a whole:
Three games in three days. We beat a very, very good Arizona team for the third time and beat a very, very good Washington State team for the third time and took arguably the best team in the country to the wire twice in the last two weeks. There's never any good about losing, but it's good as far as how far along we've come. I don't think anyone in here picked us to be in this situation. But we're not into moral victories.
The first few sentences I absolutely agree with. The team had a great showing on Thursday and Friday, and should be rewarded Sunday afternoon with a three seed in the Anaheim region, my crystal ball says.
On whether he wanted a three on the last-second possession that ended in a Hill dunk:
That's a great question, the best question we've had. No, we were trying get two, not three, because there were still three seconds on the clock, because they had guys in position. On the foul, we were going to get Westbrook and James Keefe.
Blame Stanford's execution (not managing to break free against a much quicker UCLA defense for a dunk until there were three seconds left), but I think the idea was sound. Between the possession starting with 19 seconds left, the way UCLA was shooting free throws and the fact that the Bruins were still just in the one-and-one, a quick two and putting them back on the line looked like a much better strategy than a contested three. I would have brought in Kenny Brown and/or Drew Shiller after the foul on Collison with three seconds left though.
On his last-second three:
Time was running down and I tried to get as close as I could and get it off in regulation. It was just off to the right.
On the loss:
It's definitely hard to take. No one likes losing. We've come so far and played well, but they beat us on the boards and that's pretty much end of story.
I ask what caused the rebounding discrepancy:
I don't know. Maybe they just wanted it more than us. We were both going real hard, but they wanted it more.
Before reading too much into that, that might be your answer if you were Brook Lopez and thought the truth was that our guards allowed way too much penetration. Brook made no eye contact as he was answering my question, staring at a distant point over my left shoulder. So after he finished his response, I turned around and looked. There was a closed-circuit TV, broadcasting UCLA's championship celebration at center court.
On the officials:
I try to ignore the refs as much as possible. When it gets physical, you've just got to enjoy it. Go out and if you get hit by a couple guys, hit back. It's a fun game.
He's speaking in monotone, continuing to stare at that TV as he says the last sentence.
I ask Brook about whether fatigue was a factor:
Not really. No. You've got to enjoy it, get up, and be ready to play a team like UCLA. You know it'll be a good game and need to be ready to bring your best.
On whether he realized the time on the possession where he found Law Hill for a dunk:
I mean I saw game clock but at the same time, I didn't want to go for too bad of a shot, a Hail Mary. I actually saw Law. He didn't get open right away…I just saw no one clearly open and didn't want to throw a Hail Mary shot, so I thought, ‘we'll take the points now and see what happens.'
He did a great job on the pick-and-roll and making teammates better. They have great finishers – you hedge, but then you have to go back to your guy. He made tough shots, I don't think too many were wide-open shots, a lot of shots with hands in his face. That's tough, but what can you do but give him props for making plays.
Beg to differ here too. Mitch just didn't have the quickness to stay with him.
More on Collison:
He really comes out and attacks and creates help situations. Our rebounding, that's our strength and we didn't do that. It doesn't matter, Collison, Bayless from Arizona, when we're not rebounding, it makes him play a lot better.
On his dunk:
Yeah, we were actually trying to get a quick shot anyways. The game wasn't over, and then we still ran that play at the end.
On the first half:
We took care of the ball and controlled the tempo. When we relaxed, it got them back into it.
On fearing UCLA:
We're not afraid of any team. They're just the best team we we've played against and Collison does a good job.
On staying focused on the NCAA Tournament:
Definitely. We didn't meet our goals today, but it's a great thing we still have games to play. We'll find out where we are tomorrow and then take it from there. The only thing on my mind is how we can make the team stronger.
On whether they squandered an opportunity with Love injured early:
Yeah, but Keefe and Aboya, just like when Mbah a Moute came out and guys picked it up against USC, it was the same thing today. He pushed through and guys stepped up.
On the loss:
I hope it leaves a hole in our hearts and we come out hard in practice and try to fill it back up. From here on out, it's one-and-done.
Beautiful. Beautiful imagery.
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