It's our common refrain for these early season games, but it should be said: Prairie View A&M is not a good team, and so there's not a tremendous amount you can take from last night's game. UCLA beat the Panthers 95-53, and the game was about as lopsided as that score indicates. Prairie View shot very poorly, was very undisciplined on offense, and played very passively on defense.
The Bruins played man defense the entire game, and, while there are always going to be limitations to UCLA's man given the athletic limitations of the personnel, the effort level overall was improved over last Saturday. Ben Howland clearly made a few adjustments to the man for this game, with Larry Drew generally extending the defense a several feet beyond the three point line, which helped to force the Panthers' offensive sets out of their comfort zone.
Also, UCLA didn't switch nearly as much on defense, relying mostly on hedges and help defense, which was at times suspect. It should also be noted that the Panthers didn't screen much on offense, so there wasn't a really large sample size to see exactly how UCLA plans on dealing with those situations. The help defense, though, will need some work. While he had a nice opportunistic day on defense with a couple of steals, Jordan Adams still struggled to stay in front of his man on dribble drives, and three times in the first half he didn't get much help on the back side.
UCLA was helped, of course, by the fact that the Panthers took several quick, bad shots in the first half that helped to not only save the defenders some effort but also allow the Bruins to get out on the break more than they've been able to this year. The Panthers really struggled to hit open looks in the first five minutes or so, and when those didn't fall early, they got much more sped up, which fed into UCLA's lead.
Travis Wear did have five blocks, and you have to give both of the Wears credit for their effort level on Saturday. They were both very active defensively, and Travis was able to use his length several times on the Panthers' small guard to adjust and block shots. This game was actually a good indication of when the Wears are at their most effective: they played a combined 45 minutes, shot the ball only 11 times, and weren't at a huge athletic disadvantage. What's more, because they played fewer minutes, they seemed fresher throughout the game. Sure, some of that was due to Travis being in foul trouble, but given that Tony Parker was fairly effective throughout the game, this could perhaps give Howland a revised formula for minute allocation the rest of the year.
Speaking of Parker, he received significant minutes in both the first and second halves and, while still raw on both sides of the court, he had some nice moments on offense, converting a bankshot jump hook at one point and showing some decent hands in the post. He played 18 minutes overall, and it'll be interesting to see if Howland continues that minute load over the next several games to get Parker ready for Pac-12 play.
Shabazz Muhammad had probably his best day on offense this season, shooting exceptionally well and actually making a few nice passes, including a bounce pass to Kyle Anderson on the wing for a mid-range jumper and a lob to Norman Powell for a dunk. He does look noticeably thinner on the court, but it wasn't like he spent most of the game taking players off the dribble. His points largely came off of jump shots, and he looks pretty comfortable from the elbow.
Anderson, too, had one of his best games, coming within three assists of a triple double. He's probably UCLA's best rebounder this year, and there were a few sequences where he rebounded the Panthers' miss and then led the break. He took two pretty bad shots early, including a rushed three pointer that missed the rim, but he looked good from mid-range, and he made several nice passes.
Jordan Adams shot poorly, and this is the kind of game you have to expect at times from him. As such a volume shooter, he's going to hit cold streaks like he did last night, missing all five attempt from three, including one air ball. The only issue is if it becomes more of a long term slump, because he does struggle defensively against even mid-major athletes. Norman Powell played within himself offensively, and was also very active on the defensive end.
Against Prairie View's zone in the first half, UCLA attempted, on and off, to work the ball into the elbow. The Bruins got a number of open jumpers from there against the Panthers' pretty weak zone, with Anderson hitting the opening shot of the game from there, and Muhammad, the Wears, and Adams all getting open looks as well. The Panthers had to go to man after a while, but that seemed like it was due to a combination of UCLA's effectiveness against it and the Panthers' own awful offense that kept them from being able to set up their zone.
Again, though, it's hard to take too much away from this game. Prairie View A&M is an under-talented and poor shooting team that compounded their lack of talent by playing a very undisciplined style against UCLA. While the Bruins' overall effort level is an encouraging sign for the future, it was just a week ago that we were treated to a very ugly game between UCLA and Texas that involved two teams playing with a very poor effort level all game. While you have to hope that UCLA has perhaps learned something from the last few minutes of that Texas game, where the entire team seemed to play harder on defense, until we see it against a quality opponent, it's hard to make any kind of judgment. You can, however, make some guesses.
Given what we saw in this game, in the Texas game, and in the exhibition against San Marcos, it seems clear that this team is going to play man defense the rest of the way, and from what we saw against Prairie View, it looks like Howland is going to try to go back to his old style of man as well: hedging screens, extending beyond the three point line, and, at times, doubling the low post with his two bigs. It'll be interesting to see how successful that is going forward, especially against higher level athletes and basketball players, given UCLA's athletic disadvantage.
Whatever the case, though, UCLA did what it needed to do against Prairie View and will now await Long Beach State on Tuesday.
Prairie View A&M Review
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