Bears Hand Bruins Head Bands

On the first stop of a make-or-break road trip, the Bruins break rather than make, losing to the Cal Bears, 69-51...

The entire UCLA team came out against the Cal Bears last night wearing headbands. This was apparently some kind of inspirational gesture indicating the Bruins' unity and resolve. Unfortunately, the Bruins displayed neither unity nor resolve in the actual game as Cal crushed them, 69-51.

UCLA started the game in its new 2-3 zone and "41" motion offense, and the Bruins took the early lead, 3-2, on a long bomb from Jason Kapono. After that, Cal seized control of the game and never gave it up. Unlike the previous match between these two teams in Los Angeles, the Bears focused on getting the ball inside and they succeeded with a vengeance. Solomon Hughes, who averages 8 ppg, scored 8 points in the first 6 minutes, all of them on shots within 2 feet of the basket after Cal broke down the Bruin defense by getting the ball inside the zone about 12-15 feet from the basket and then making the entry pass down low without any interference from a UCLA defender.

With his team trailing 14-5, Lavin switched his team to a man defense. Asking a slow team like UCLA to guard a quick team like Cal man to man is not a very nice thing to do, especially since Lavin is the Bruins' head coach. Naturally, Cal shredded the Bruin defense at will and only some bricked 3s kept UCLA within striking distance. Brian Wethers was particularly effective, slashing inside, dunking lobs and getting out on the break when the Bruins failed to get back on d after a missed shot or miscue.

At the other end of the floor, UCLA's motion offense continued to confuse the Bruins more than their opponents. UCLA made 10 turnovers in the first half, many of them unforced, and with Cal playing an excellent man d with its quicker players, the Bruins had a hard time finding high percentage shots. I realize that many UCLA fans would like to see a motion offense and dislike the 1-4, but the 1-4 beat Kansas, Alabama and Georgetown. If UCLA had started the season with a motion offense, perhaps the players could execute it. But Billy Knight and Jason Kapono and Dan Gadzuric aren't suited for a motion, and Jason isn't working the 41 very well, and the Bruins look lost out there, just as they did when they ran their motion against ASU.

Cal led 33-18 at the half. Other than Dan Gadzuric, the Bruin players were either mediocre or just plain awful. But then again, their head coach had "put them in a position to lose," so perhaps it wasn't the players' fault.

The Bruins came out in the second half in their 1-2-2 matchup zone and displayed more energy on both ends of the floor as they closed the gap to 12 behind the shooting of Jason and Matt and the passing of Matt and, yes, Dan, who made a couple of excellent kick outs after drawing a double team. But another rash of Bruin turnovers and a sudden hot streak by Cal from behind the arc enabled the Bears to build the lead up to 43-26 by the first TV timeout.

After that, the roof fell in on UCLA. Neither Ced Bozeman nor Ryan Walcott could initiate plays against the tough, quick, physical Cal guards. In the motion, Billy and Jason showed little ability to use picks to free themselves up for shots, and Matt began turning the ball over by forcing too many drives into the lane. The Bruins seemed to forget Dan, who reminded them of his presence from time to time with some nice offensive rebounds. Dan was a big factor at both ends, as Solomon Hughes and Jamal Sampson found it hard to score inside against him. Dan also blocked or altered several shots playing help d.

The Bruin defense was equally ineffective. Lavin switched gears on d again and kept his team in a man for the rest of the second half, and the Bruins once again proved themselves unequal to the task. A Cal player would break the defense down with the dribble or a nice screen, then dish the ball out to Amit Tamir, Joe Shipp or Ryan Forehan-Kelly for the wide open spot-up 3. Tamir was especially hot, with three 3s in the second half. Lavin's choice of defense thus gave Cal many more high percentage 3s than they got at Pauley against the matchup zone. UCLA pressed as well. As the Pepperdine and Ball State games already demonstrated, the Bruins can't press. So Cal just built its lead higher and higher, until it reached 20 points at 52-32.

Lavin began mass substitutions, desperately trying to find a lineup that could produce, but to no avail. His best team was probably Ced, Rico Hines, Dijon Thompson, Andre Patterson and Matt. But nothing worked, and Cal just maintained that 20 point lead for the rest of the game. UCLA only got more and more frustrated, and when ShanTay Legans grabbed hold of Matt's jersey after Jason had rebounded a Cal missed shot, Matt leveled ShanTay with a hard forearm right to the face, snapping his head back and giving ShanTay whiplash (Matt is about 10 inches taller than ShanTay and outweighs him by 40 pounds). Matt was called for the flagrant foul and ejected from the game. Under Pac-10 rules, he might be suspended for the Stanford game on Saturday. Lavin should bench him anyway.

This painful affair finally ended with Cal taking the victory by 18 points. The Bruins' new-fangled motion combined with Cal's tough defense to produce 22 UCLA turnovers, compared to 13 for Cal. The Bruins shot 42.6% from the field and were only 3-18 from 3. Cal finished at 46.3% and 35%, respectively.

Dan played a very strong game with 18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks. He hit all 7 of his FG attempts and was also 4-6 from the FT line. Jason Kapono was 3-9 from the floor (2-8 from 3) and got 10 points and 5 rebounds. Billy Knight made 3-6 from the floor (0-2 from 3) and finished with 6 points. Matt got 8 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 turnovers. He was 3-11 from the floor (1-4 from 3).

Ced Bozeman had 3 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 turnovers. Ryan Walcott had 2 assists, 2 steals and 3 turnovers. Neither player scored. TJ Cummings scored 7 points and played aggressively on offense, but only had 1 rebound and made 3 turnovers in 15 minutes. Dijon got 2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 turnovers. Rico produced a rebound, an assist and took 2 charges. Andre got 2 rebounds and a block in 5 minutes and looked good. Josiah Johnson and John Hoffart got into the game in the final minute.

Amit Tamir led Cal with 18 points. Brian Wethers got 15 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in a superb performance. Solomon Hughes finished with 12 points, and Joe Shipp added 11 points and 6 rebounds.

The Bruins looked thoroughly confused, totally frustrated and largely disheartened for much of the game. Instead of building a winning streak as they point towards the NCAA Tournament, the players appear to be struggling with new offensive and defensive schemes installed by the coaching staff at a very late date in the season. Perhaps the Bruins have been working on their motion and 2-3 zone and man d all year, but we don't know because practices are closed to the press and public. From the perspective of an outsider, UCLA appears to be afflicted with "paralysis by analysis," to use one of the head coach's favorite phrases. I realize that Pac-10 teams had found ways to frustrate the Bruins' 1-4 and get some good shots against the 1-2-2 matchup, but those were also the systems that enabled UCLA to play with the best teams in the country.

Cal climbs to 19-6 overall, 10-5 in the Pac-10. UCLA falls to 17-9 overall, 9-6 in the Pac-10.

UCLA now travels to Palo Alto to take on a really pissed-off Stanford team Saturday at 1 PM…


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