But, in the final analysis, the Bruins basically just sucked all around.
It's possible, of course, to get more technical about it.
The Wildcats will cough the ball up against pressure defense, and when the game gets going too fast. Of course, UCLA can't play pressure defense and they don't run very much, so Villanova only made 4 turnovers in the first half, 9 total for the game. The Bruins made 15 turnovers, 3 in the final 3 minutes when they were trying to protect a slim lead. That had to hurt.
The loss of PG Ced Bozeman, who banged his surgically repaired knee against the knee of Wildcat player while scrambling for a loose ball with about 3:20 left in the game, might hurt a lot more. Ced left the game and had to be helped off the floor, and his status was unknown as of the writing of this report, though he was probably more frightened than hurt. Of course, Lavin will probably get blamed for Ced's injury (if it's bad). That's silly, of course, but as soon as he went down I couldn't help of thinking about what Henry Bibby said to Steve Henson of the LA Times on Thursday in explaining why he doesn't schedule non-conference games during the season: "I don't need to see Brandon Granville getting hurt in a meaningless game." Ced's absence in those final 3 minutes obviously had a lot to do with those turnovers.
The Wildcats are small, quick and live and die by the 3-point shot. In the first half, against the UCLA 1-2-2 matchup zone, Gary Buchanan smoked in 5 3s and Villanova made 6-10 3s overall, some of them verging on ridiculous in their degree of difficulty. Notwithstanding which, the Wildcats only led by 1 at halftime, 31-30. Their inability to penetrate the UCLA zone and put any foul pressure on Dan Gadzuric seemed likely at halftime to put an increasing strain on the Wildcats to maintain their torrid shooting pace in the second half, an unlikely event, especially considering their lack of depth.
For some reason, which only he will be able to explain, Lavin decided to put the Bruins in a man d for much of the second half. I guess it was to slow down Buchanan. But why slow someone down if he's not beating you? I actually screamed at the TV after Wright's first basket: "Lavin you idiot! Go back into a zone!" I guess he didn't hear me. Not surprisingly, Villanova's best frontcourt player, Ricky Wright, scored at will by taking Dan outside and then beating him to the basket off drives. Other Villanova players found their way into the paint, also not surprising, since the Wildcats are quicker than the Bruins at almost every position. Even I could see that. UCLA gave up the first 8 points of the second half and then trailed by 6-9 points until about the 6-minute mark of the game.
This was one case where Lavin definitely put his team in a position to lose, as he himself is so fond of saying.
That the Bruins were in a position to win at all might be credited to that most oxymoronic of all creatures, the Pac-10 official. With UCLA down 47-42, Billy Knight scored underneath and drew the foul. Billy missed the foul shot. When Wright leaned into Matt Barnes on the foul line to get position for the rebound, Matt flopped over and Dave Libby gave the Bruins a potential 5-point play and possession of the ball. Billy got to shoot his missed FT all over again (he made it), Matt got 2 FT attempts (he made 1) and UCLA got the ball. Matt got fouled on the subsequent play and made both FTs and UCLA led 48-47. So, it was a 6-point play. I still haven't figured that out. We should note that Wright had decked Rico Hines on an elbow only moments before, so maybe the refs were really mad at those vicious Big East brutes.
The Bruins, especially Jason Kapono and Dan Gadzuric, missed some key wide-open shots, Jason from the outside and Dan from the inside. Dan also fumbled several passes out of bounds that should have been easy baskets. He only scored 5 points in the game, and should have scored 15-20. He had 3 rebounds and 4 turnovers.
Matt threw the ball away too much (6 turnovers). Yes, he hit 4-5 3s and made a number of clutch plays and led the Bruins in scoring, along with Billy, with 17 points, but he just made some real bonehead passing and ballhandling decisions.
Of course, Matt probably picked up his bonehead plays from his coach:
In the last couple of minutes, with UCLA still in a man, Lavin was forced to take Jason out of the game, since he was such a liability on defense. Unfortunately, this meant Jason missed at least 1 key offensive sequence as well, since Lavin didn't use a time out to get him back into the game.
With UCLA in a man and holding a 57-53 lead, Dan switched onto non-shooting 6-footer Derrick Snowden when 6-10 Brooks Sales set a pick up top, forcing Ryan to pick Brooks up under the basket. After Villanova missed an outside shot, Brooks grabbed the rebound over Ryan's head and kicked the ball back out to Snowden at the top of the key. Snowden reversed it to Buchanan, who hit his only 3 of the second half. Why is Dan switching in a man 20 feet from the basket onto a guy who can't shoot?
With UCLA still up 57-56 and only 40 seconds to go, Lavin keeps his team in a man, despite having a foul to give. Buchanan has only hit one shot in the entire second half. Hello? Brooks Sales blows by Matt and with UCLA lacking the quickness to rotate over in a man, Dan was forced to foul on the shot attempt, giving Sales the winning FTs.
Last possession: UCLA. Again, no time out is called to set up a play. Billy shoots a 3 with 12 seconds left. He's fouled, but the refs miss it. Lavin is screaming for the foul while the game is still going on out there. Billy winds up taking a wild 3 in the corner off a loose ball with 4 seconds left. At least 2 Bruins are wide open. Billy was standing right next to his bench. If Lavin hadn't been too busy screaming for a foul long after it was a dead issue, maybe he could have had ample time to scream, "Billy, throw it to Jason!" instead. If you're going to scream, at least scream something productive.
Earlier in the half, Rico got into a verbal tussle with Sales. The refs called a double technical. Lavin yelled at Rico, "Why did you do that!?" Jay Wright pulled Sales out of the game. Maybe Rico should have yelled back at Lavin, "Hell, you're not taking me out for doing it, how am I ever going to learn not to do it!?"
As noted, Matt and Billy each scored 17 points for UCLA. Matt had 6 rebounds. Billy played a pretty good game all around, with 5 rebounds and a couple of terrific steals in the passing lanes. Jason had 9 points on 3-9 shooting from the field and got 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Dan, as noted, managed 5 points. Ced Bozeman had 4 points and 3 assists and no turnovers in 25 minutes. Ryan nailed a 3 and might've had more than 2 assists if Dan wasn't such a bricklayer today. Rico Hines scored 2 points and played very good d on Buchanan in the second half.
Buchanan, Sales and Wright led Villanova with 20, 12 and 12 points, respectively. Wright grabbed 9 boards. UCLA outrebounded Villanova 25-23. That tells you about the nature of this game: Slow, boring and few possessions to go around. It's the kind of game where decision-making becomes especially important, both on and off the court. I guess that puts us at a disadvantage…
This game was ugly. The Bruins missed a lot of easy shots, made a lot of unforced turnovers and didn't put out much of an effort. Lavin's game management mistakes were glaring and painful to watch. No, I haven't resigned from the ranks of the Lavanistas, but there really isn't anything positive to say about a game like this one.
Does this mean that any of us can predict what the rest of the season will be like? Are you insane? If you're not, just keep watching these roller-coaster Bruins for the remainder of the year and I'm sure you'll be stark raving mad by then…
Next up: Arizona at Pauley on Thursday night.
Note: The ASU game on Saturday will start at 12:30, not at 12 noon, as listed in the official schedule.