UCLA defeated Global Sports 86-60 in a rather ragged exhibition game that went quite well for the first 13 minutes and then got real ugly, really fast.
Until the 7-minute mark of the first half, UCLA looked fairly sparkling, building up a 31-6 lead. Indeed, with three Utah State players on the floor for Global Sports, one got a sense of déjà vu all over again as the Bruins held GS (I don't think they have a nickname) scoreless for a key 9-minute stretch. The Bruins managed to do all this without highly-touted freshman point guard Cedric Bozeman, who sat out the game as a precautionary move while he finishes his recovery from a bruised tailbone suffered in the EA Sports All-Stars game last Thursday. After the game, Coach Steve Lavin indicated that Cedric is expected to be 100% for the Houston game at the Maui Classic on Monday night.
At the 7-minute mark, UCLA inexplicably collapsed, committing numerous turnovers and giving up a number of easy transition baskets as GS went on a 12-0 run in less than 3 minutes. Oddly enough, this run began AFTER Lavin had pulled reserves Dijon Thompson, Andre Patterson and Ryan Walcott out of the game and had reinstated three of his starters. The starters got themselves back in order and UCLA was up 45-25 at halftime. The rest of the game was pretty much a slugfest, with both teams going on mini-runs. The Bruins continued to share the ball (21 assists) and get a lot of easy looks, especially in transition (team FG% was 61.1%). That's the good news. The bad news is, the Bruins made a lot of unforced turnovers again (20) and their transition defense was pretty awful. Well, as awful as it can get when you win a game by 26 points and hold a team to 35.4% from the field, 23.8% from 3 and out-rebound them 35-25. This marks the second straight game where the Bruins' height on the perimeter appeared to enable them to bother a group of quicker, opposing jump shooters, and also where the Bruins out-rebounded a fairly physical group of players by double-digits. So, some hints of the Bruins' early-season strengths and weaknesses may be apparent. Or maybe not, these were just exhibition games.
The Bruins' 3 top players tonight were probably Matt Barnes (18 points, including 2-4 from 3 and 2-3 from the FT line), Billy Knight (16 points, including 2-4 from 3), and James Worthy… er, sorry, Andre Patterson (10 points on 5-5 from the field). Matt played very good defense and combined some excellent driving plays with some good post moves and a lot of poise (zero turnovers, 7-10 from the field). Billy was very aggressive on offense and played very solid defense. Andre soared over the multitudes and drew a lot of "oohs" and "aahs" from the Pauley audience with his acrobatic scoring moves. I think he released a finger roll from about 6 inches over the rim. Dijon Thompson also played a very smooth game and once again seemed to have a very calming influence on the team when he was on the court (4 points, including a 3, to go with 4 rebounds and 5 assists against 2 turnovers). In these two exhibition games, the Bruins' offense has seemed to operate most efficiently when Dijon has been on the floor, and their defense works really well, too.
Jason Kapono, forced to play out of position at the point for most of the night, didn't get his fair share of jump shots and had a quiet evening in which most of the noise was unpleasant. Jason did have 13 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists, but committed 6 turnovers and got stripped a couple of times by the quick GS guards, Michael Nurse, 5-10, from Iowa State, and Marcus Saxon, 6-2, from Utah State. Dan Gadzuric continued to play indifferently, finishing with 12 points and 9 rebounds (8 in the first half), blocking only one shot and not doing a very good job of helping his teammates to shut off dribble penetration. Dan is definitely showing a smoother stroke, both from the field and from the FT line (he's been 8-14 from the FT line in the two exhibition games; if a .571 FT percentage doesn't float your boat, compare it to what Dan has done for the last two seasons), but he needs to make his presence felt on the defense end, like he did in the latter quarter of last season. TJ Cummings played a pretty solid game (8 points, 5 rebounds), though he continues to concede deep position to powerful low post players. Of course, who doesn't? But this could be a problem for the Bruins. Assuming there are any powerful low post players left in college these days.
Rico Hines got the start tonight and hustled his way to 5 points (including a 3), 4 rebounds, 3 assists and good defense, but Rico also turned the ball over a few times, just like in the previous game. He hustles, but he also plays out of control at times and needs to "be quick without hurrying," as some college coach once said. Ryan Walcott got 3 assists and a steal in 6 minutes of the first half (during UCLA's long run when GS was getting shut out), then mysteriously vanished until garbage time of the second half. Josiah Johnson and John Hoffart made token appearances in garbage time.
Former Long Beach State star Rock Lloyd led GS with 22 points. Kevin Rice, a quick guard from Utah State, got 16 points, and the evil Richard Mandeville scored 10 points, mostly on outside jumpers and FTs.
Again, it's hard to draw conclusions from exhibition games. UCLA has only had Ced Bozeman available for one of the four halves it's played so far, and the lack of a "backup point guard" hasn't seemed to matter the slightest bit. The team's improved transition offense has seemingly been reflected by inflated field goal percentages, though having someone like Andre Patterson who can just sky over everyone will help you score pretty easily. An uncontested shot released a foot over the rim from 2 inches out is likely to go in a lot. The team's displayed its unselfishness and passing skills with back to back 20-assist games, they've been pounding some big teams on the glass and the defense is causing turnovers. On the other hand, the transition defense has been poor, and defensive rotation against penetration and ball location deep in the post hasn't been much better. Offensively, the Bruins are making too many turnovers, especially off careless passes into the high post on the basic high 1-4 offensive set and in trying to dump the ball inside to Dan. Perhaps having Ced Bozeman healthy could improve this aspect of their game. Perhaps not.
Now it's on to Hawaii, where Jason Kapono has not less than 8 aunts awaiting his arrival. We'll preview the Houston game next week.