OSU did play good defense, choking off the passing lanes to Dan Gadzuric, and the Beavers also pounded the boards, nearly matching the Bruins in rebounds, 37-38. With UCLA unable to play any kind of pressure defense, the game turned into a slow, ugly crawl after the first 4 minutes, during which time UCLA had outscored OSU 18-7. As the game ground to a near halt, UCLA's motion offense stopped working as well, and the Beavers closed to within 29-25 before a Bruin burst pushed them to a halftime lead of 37-29, capped by Matt Barnes' 3-pointer at the buzzer off a nice feed from Ced Bozeman (the Bruins apparently specialize in buzzer-beating shots).
The second half resembled the last 16 minutes of the first. The Bruins would score a basket or two, but the Beavers would nail a 3 and then a UCLA miss or turnover would put OSU right back in position to close the gap. Sometimes UCA tried to press: Each time, OSU converted the press into a layup or dunk at the other end. The Beavers negated their good d, rebounding and transition play against the press by missing an awful lot of shots, many of them close to the basket. The Bruins had a hard time keeping OSU big men Philip Ricci and Brian Jackson from getting the ball inside the 1-2-2 matchup zone. Since both players can shoot, pass and dribble, they broke down the Bruin zone with ease and scored on dunks, layups and short Js. They might've scored more, but UCLA blocked 10 shots in the game and the Beavers missed several layups.
As the game ground its way to the 13 minute mark and UCLA's lead fell to 6, Lavin yanked his by now lethargic starters and put TJ Cummings, Andre Patterson, Dijon Thompson, Rico Hines and Ryan Walcott into action. That group played with enthusiasm, even if they suffered from lapses on defense from time to time. Dijon and TJ scored effectively and Ryan got some dimes. At the 8-minute mark, with UCLA still up 50-44, Lavin decided his starters had been chastised enough and put them back in the game.
The starters apparently didn't care that they'd been benched, and promptly turned the ball over a couple of times, took some bad shots and played more bad defense, but OSU couldn't find the basket and made a couple of turnovers of their own. Nonetheless, the Beavers were able to trim the lead to 57-55 as Dan missed 4 straight FTs.
It was now, at the 6-minute mark, that Ritchie McKay sent 6 men on the court. Or maybe somebody (Brian Jackson, hint, hint) wasn't listening. Anyway, OSU got hit with the "T," Jason Kapono made both foul shots, the Bruins got the ball back and Matt Barnes drew the foul and sank both shots to make it 59-55. OSU came down and scored, making it 59-57. UCLA turned the ball over and OSU had a chance to tie it with less than 2 minutes to go.
The Bruin starters finally played some good d, forcing OSU to take almost 45 seconds to wind up with absolutely nothing (OSU got the ball out of bounds after a missed shot which reset the shot clock). On OSU's inbounds play after its 2nd missed shot of the possession, the Bruins harassed the Beavers into a shot clock violation. Several OSU fouls and FTs by Jason Kapono and Billy Knight accounted for the final score.
Once more, the Bruins followed up a good performance with a bad one, but this time UCLA at least won the game. As everyone has noted before many times, the Bruins' lack of a pressure defense means they can't blow anyone out or sustain leads unless they're playing a slowdown team that has a really bad day shooting the ball from 3 (like Alabama or OSU in Corvallis). When the Bruins are clicking on offense and they play enough defense to prevent teams from running them off the floor in transition, they can stay with anyone and possibly beat them as well. Tonight, UCLA wasn't clicking on offense (OSU played pretty good defense) and OSU hit enough of its 3s (8-21, for 36.4%) to make the game close.
Matt Barnes led UCLA with 14 points. He also had 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Jason Kapono got 11 points and 7 rebounds. Both players were 2-4 from 3. Jason made 5-6 FTs. Billy Knight added 13 points and 4 rebounds and hit 3-6 from 3 and 4-4 from the FT line. Dan was held to 6 points by a collapsing defense that double-teamed him for most of the game and committed 11 fouls against him as well. Dan led the Bruins in rebounds with 9 and blocked 3 shots, but made 4 turnovers against all that pressure. The Bruins seemed to be forcing the ball into Dan too much at times.
Ced Bozeman was only 1-4 from the field, but he got 8 assists against just 2 turnovers to go with his 2 points. The bench was productive: In 12 minutes, TJ hit 5-6 shots en route to 10 points and 3 rebounds in one of his better performances in the past month. Dijon scored 6 points and shot the ball well. Andre got 4 blocks, a rebound and a steal in 10 minutes. Ryan got 3 points and 2 assists and 0 turnovers, though he was a little trigger-happy at times (he was 1-2 from 3). Rico added 2 rebounds, an assist and a steal.
Philip Ricci led OSU with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Brian Jackson added 13 points, and Brandon Payton scored 12 points.
For the game, UCLA hit 43.3% of its shots, OSU just 32.8%. UCLA hit 8-18 from 3, as opposed to OSU's 8-21. UCLA made 11-18 FTs, but Dan was 0-6 by himself, so the rest of the team was 11-12 from the line and made 10-10 FTs in the final 6 minutes, a clutch performance. As noted, UCLA barely outrebounded OSU for the night, not a good sign. UCLA made 10 turnovers in the game, OSU 9.
That low turnover number for OSU, combined with the rebounding totals, partly explains why this game was so close despite OSU's poor shooting overall. Since they can't force turnovers, the Bruins have to both shoot the ball well and gain a solid advantage on the glass if they want to beat any team by 10 or more points. It's that simple. OSU came into the game very hot from 3 and stayed that way, as noted above. The Bruin defense is designed to control the paint and concede the 3. In this game, OSU's patient working of the clock, good spacing and expert ball movement broke the Bruin zone down enough to produce spot-up 3s and numerous inside shots. The Beavers might have won the game if they could have converted more of those close attempts, but I suspect that UCLA's 10 blocks had something to do with that.
The Bruins' consistent inconsistency marks this game as a wash. We can't call it a momentum builder by any stretch of the imagination, though it does mark the first time in 6 weeks that UCLA has won 2 straight games. We can't really call it a disaster, either, since it's a win, and it sure beats the heck out of the Cal, ASU and Villanova games. This game continues to demonstrate UCLA's difficulties when facing teams which use up a lot of shot clock and have the ability to patiently dissect a passive defense. Fortunately for UCLA, none of the other top 5 teams in the Pac-10 fit that description, though Cal comes closest.
Next up: The first place Oregon Ducks in the final game of the Pac-10's regular season on Saturday at 1 PM. The Webfooted ones have proven themselves to be a high quality team. Beating them would give the Bruins 20 regular season wins and more credibility. It might also finally provide them with some of that dreaded "mo" heading into the Pac-10 Tournament…