SG Isaac Hamilton (USA Today)

The Bruins Lost To Washington With Unfocused Effort

Jan. 2 -- Thanks to some unfocused offensive play and a poor shooting night for key players, the Bruins lost in double overtime to a bad Washington team on Friday...

UCLA opened Pac-12 play with a really miserable loss on Friday night, dropping in double overtime to Washington on the road.

It was arguably the most unwatchable game of the young college basketball season. The two teams combined for 64 fouls and an almost unbearably sloppy style of play that led to 42 combined turnovers. The game went to double overtime, so it was obviously going to be a longer one, but this truly hard-to-watch basketball game went about three hours, which is just punishing.

The game really hinged on the first half, when Washington wasn't shooting well or looking like it had much of a plan on offense besides jacking up a quick shot. During that time, UCLA really needed to build a considerable lead, but instead, the Bruins looked rushed and unfocused on offense and seemed content, for long stretches, to play Washington's unique brand of awful basketball. The result of the poor offensive half, after Thomas Welsh (probably UCLA's best player on Friday) went out with his third foul in the waning moments of the half, was just a five-point halftime lead.

That was really the issue, from our perspective. We wouldn't say the defensive effort was necessarily bad, or so bad that it was the reason UCLA lost -- the zone defense got a little sieve-like in the second half, but there were possessions where UCLA was fine on defense. The issue was primarily the offensive focus and approach. The Bruins had just 11 assists in this game and all too often there was very little ball movement on the offensive end.

The main issues offensively were Tony Parker, who had one of his unfocused games, and Bryce Alford, who struggled with the ball pressure from Washington for much of the night and didn't make a field goal until the latter stages of the second half. Parker really struggled in this one, and just didn't look engaged int he game. We've been waiting for the light to turn on for Parker in a considerable way, such that he can consistently bring a level of focus to the game every night, and it seems pretty clear at this point that he is what he is: a sometimes very good offensive player who will have whole games where he just doesn't look like he has any interest in playing.

Alford was a different situation. He struggled against Washington's ball pressure, and that got him hurried. He missed a couple of transition layups, but he was also pressured enough at the three-point line that he didn't get many clean looks -- of course, until late, when he was pretty much the sole reason UCLA even had a chance in the overtime periods. Those two shots he made were huge, clutch shots, one to force overtime and the other to force double overtime. It did seem, though, that early in the game he progressively forced the issue offensively as he fell more and more into a shooting rut, and as we've written for a while, a big growth point for him is developing the attitude that some nights, he needs to act as more of a facilitator, either when he's being pressured more or when his shot isn't falling.

Welsh was really good in this one, and showed a little more toughness around the hoop than he's shown previously this season, and that's nice to see. Given the way he was playing, if he hadn't gotten that third foul and had been able to close out the first half and start the second half, the game was close enough that that alone might have been enough for UCLA to win.

His turnover numbers weren't good, but Aaron Holiday has seemingly bounced back from the offensive rut he was in for most of December. He looked really good on a few mid-range jumpers and didn't force too much on offense. Isaac Hamilton didn't shoot quite as well as he has of late, but actually led the team in assists with five.

The bench was mostly ineffective. Jonah Bolden provided some rebounds, but wasn't able to get much going offensively. Prince Ali looked a little tentative and uncomfortable in his first game back from injury. Noah Allen and Alex Olesinski provided some ineffective minutes, and the mere fact that Ikenna Okwarabizie had to play was pretty much a deal breaker for UCLA.

This game was really atrociously officiated, and we don't mean one way or the other. In a free-flowing game that both teams were all too willing to play, you simply can't call as many touch fouls as the officials decided to call in this one. There were just way too many possessions for that, and it made this game, which was already kind of a mess, even worse.

This was definitely a blow to this UCLA team. Though it came on the road, in a historically tough environment for UCLA teams, Washington is not good this year, and this can definitely get thrown into the category of bad losses for the Bruins, along with Wake Forest and (maybe) Monmouth. This weekend was also probably the most likely opportunity for a road sweep for UCLA this year, and this loss guarantees that it won't be one.

Winning in Pullman becomes critical now, to retain some of the good will and tournament momentum that the Kentucky and Gonzaga wins generated almost a month ago. But the more unfocused, lethargic games UCLA plays, the more those two games seem like a mirage.


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