PG Aaron Holiday (Photo by Steve Cheng)

UCLA Beats Up On Bad Team

Nov. 30 -- UCLA beat up on a very bad Northridge team on Sunday, but we didn't learn much heading into the Kentucky game on Thursday...

UCLA won by 32 points last night, beating Northridge 77-45 to once again climb above .500.

Northridge is a terrible basketball team, the worst team UCLA has played this year by a fairly wide margin. The Matadors had countless unforced turnovers in the first half, repeatedly just throwing the ball out of bounds. They couldn’t finish inside, in equal parts due to their own incompetence and UCLA’s interior length. Defensively, they didn’t seem to have much of a clue how to defend the Bruins.

What we were mainly looking for in this game, given how terrible Northridge is, was a sense that the team recognizes its issues with overall effort level and is actively looking to correct those issues. And, really, it didn’t appear that there was significantly better effort. UCLA might have done a better job of getting back in transition and playing harder and with more focus on defense…or Northridge is simply terrible and is going to make any opponent look good with their inability to do anything functional on a basketball court. There certainly wasn’t any profound difference in overall effort level, but perhaps there was some minute improvement. Yes, Northridge shot poorly, but if you watched the game, it really was the case that Norhridge just sort of shot poorly — they were getting very similar opportunities to what other teams have gotten against the Bruins, but they didn’t hit a lot of their open outside looks and shots near the basket.

UCLA did make a couple of adjustments, with the biggest one probably being Bryce Alford handling more point guard duties, especially to begin the game. He did a nice enough job of facilitating the offense against Northridge, recording 10 assists against three turnovers, and Aaron Holiday played well off the ball, with his best shooting performance and, actually, his best performance as a distributor (4 assists, 0 turnovers). Again, though, it’s tough to judge the effectiveness of that lineup until we see it against real competition that isn’t throwing the ball out of bounds every third possession.

UCLA also seemed to play more man defense in this one than zone, and UCLA seemed more effective doing that. The Bruins’ length on the interior seemed to adjust the Matador attempts inside, and many of CSUN’s shot attempts looked rushed. Tony Parker, after a mostly poor trip to Hawaii, seemed more engaged in this one, and even had a nice trail block in transition.

This game did nothing to dissuade us from the idea that Prince Ali should cut even more into Isaac Hamilton’s minutes. In this one, Ali played 20 minutes and looked comfortable on offense, knocking in four of nine shots. This was far from Isaac Hamilton’s worst game, but he still shot just five of 15 from the field and took a few shots out of the flow of the offense. Ali’s athleticism and potential on defense tips the scales a bit more in his favor as well.

Jonah Bolden played some nice minutes off the bench and it’s safe to say at this point that he has the ability to be a very good rebounder at this level. He’s still getting comfortable offensively, and still looks a little lost on defense, but UCLA can probably count on getting some significant bench rebounding from him at this stage.

Beyond that, though, there wasn’t much about this game that lends itself to in-depth analysis. UCLA beat up on a team it should beat up, whether the Bruins were truly engaged in the game or not. Now, UCLA must deal with Kentucky on Thursday, and that figures to be a pretty ugly game, whether or not UCLA brings better effort.

In fairness to this team, we’ll approach that game the same way we approached the Northridge game: results don’t necessarily matter that much, but we would like to see some overall improvement in the effort level, particularly on defense. If UCLA plays consistently hard in that game, despite what should be a double-digit loss, that would be a positive sign.

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