Oh, they played a game, too. Sort of.
The Cal State University Monterey Bay Otters were supposed to show up in Pauley Pavilion Thursday night and play UCLA. At least, that's what the schedule said. Some guys did show up in uniforms that said CSUMB on them. But they didn't much resemble a team of basketball players as they lost to the Bruins 104-41.
Maybe it had something to do with the Bruin defense. With star in the making Jordan Farmar returning to action and Darren Collison seeing extended time, the Bruins played tremendous d, bodying up at times, at other times playing the passing lanes out of a man with zone principles, even blocking some shots. Jordan definitely carried his load on the defensive end in this one, and with Jordan, Arron Afflalo, Cedric Bozeman, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute and Ryan Hollins out there (oh, go ahead, throw in Darren Collison as a 6th starter), the Bruins demonstrated that their starting lineup for the next two months is going to be one of the better defensive units in the country. Yes, I know they were only playing a D II team on Thursday night, and quite a bad one at that, but these Bruins are quick, athletic and most importantly of all committed to Ben Howland's system.
Two main questions marks dog this team (I won't discuss their bad free throw shooting in this game): The ability of the frontline, especially the centers, to score in the set offense, and the ability of the bench to maintain the defensive effectiveness of the starting lineup. Addressing the second point first, Collison can really play d, but Roll struggles and Mata struggles even more (both Mata and Hollins had trouble with fouls tonight; that will be a problem throughout the season with all of the interior screens the big men set). Going back to the first point: Ced had a 3 and Luc scored twice off of a couple of nice post up moves inside, but Hollins and Mata really struggled against a solid 6-9 center to score inside. Indeed, freshman Ryan Wright was by far the most effective Bruin post player tonight, outscoring and out rebounding Hollins and Mata combined. None of the Bruin frontcourt players has the confidence to make the 12-footer.
These problems may be cured with time. The return of Mike Fey won't mean any 12-footers either, but Mike had some effective inside scoring games last year. And despite the stellar play of Darren and Luc, some Bruin players insist that Alfred Aboya is the best of the Bruin freshman. Obviously, the return of Josh Shipp is key. He will not only boost the ability of UCLA's frontcourt players to score, but presumably he will continue the defensive onslaught. By moving Ced to the bench, the Bruins will be able to maintain the pressure when Darren and Ced come in for the starters. So getting those three players back is crucial if the Bruins are going to meet the lofty expectations that many people have for them this season, including an appearance in the Sweet 16.
Stats-wise, Jordan scored on a variety of sweet Js and drives through the lane and wound up leading the Bruins with 17 points. It's very easy to see him scoring between 18-20 points per game this year and really becoming the go-to guy on the squad. He added 5 rebounds and 6 assists, including a beauty on the break off of a turnover, and only forced two bad passes the entire game.
Jordan seemed to play his best when he shared the backcourt with Collison, who racked up 16 points and 10 assists. He is truly quick on quick; the Bruins haven't had a guard this quick since Tyus Edney, and it will be fun watching Darren match up with some of the quick little guards around the country this season. Jordan, despite a lot of added muscle and a seeming commitment to defense, isn't going to harass the little guys like Darren. I see Collison playing at least 15 minutes per game this season. He will be a major component of the Bruins' attack and was obviously underrated by some high school scouts.
Arron Afflalo played a power game Thursday night (he had to; he bricked all of his outside shots). Scoring off the break or by taking it strong to the hole off the set offense, even posting up a couple of times, it's clear that Arron will play both guard and forward this year. He had 16 points and 5 rebounds. As I said before, with the way that Arron, Ced and Luc rebound, the Bruins don't need huge production in that department from their centers to hold their own against most teams in this area. Arron's outside shot has been very off in the two exhibition games. It might be his injury. Or it might be his shooting form, which still could use some work.
Mike Roll had another double figure night with 10 points, including a pair of treys. When Mike has his feet set, he's a deadly shooter. When he's moving, whether it's coming off a screen or trying to set up a shot off his dribble, his shooting touch drops off dramatically (he's 7-20 from the field in the two exhibitions), and he will experience some growing pains in the Bruin screen, cut and pass offense learning how to better utilize his teammates and create his own shot. He's a good passer, though, and sees the floor well with his savvy and great size for a guard (he will play some forward too until Josh is back).
Kelvin Kim excited the crowd with 2 buckets off driving lay ups in the set offense. If he was on CSUMB, he would've been one of their best players.
Up front, Ced Bozeman and Luc Richard Mbah A Moute once again did yeoman work on the boards and on defense. With his size, long arms, quickness and feel for the game, Ced might replace Josh on the glass better than some people expected. He had 10 points and 9 rebounds and absolutely shackled the Otters' Jay DeMaestri, who scored 33 points in his team's previous exhibition victory. Ced hit a 3, but it remains to be seen if he will give the Bruins any kind of consistent offense from the outside. His game is driving inside and getting out on the break after a rebound or turnover.
Luc Richard tallied 11 points and 9 rebounds. He is the team's best rebounder and his combination of size and athleticism enables him to guard a variety of players. His speed gives the bruin break an extra dimension, as he will beat mote power forwards and perhaps most small forwards as well) down the floor (going both ways). As I mentioned above, he had a couple of real nice power scoring moves under the basket, posting up just like the text book says and moving his feet well, something that seems to defy Ryan Hollins and Lorenzo Mata (and Mike Fey, for that matter). If Alfred Aboya is as good as some Bruin players seem to think he is, this is turning out to be one heck of a recruiting class for Ben Howland.
Ryan Hollins was active, but failed to accomplish much, finishing with 4 points, 4 rebounds and 1 block. DeVoughn Lamont at 6-9, was quick, agile and aggressive, and kept Ryan off-balance for the whole game. Ryan had to leave in the first half at the 15:52 mark with 2 fouls and that sort of set the tone for the rest of the evening. His presence was largely marked by his absence. Lorenzo Mata was even less effective, looking slow and unsure of himself at both ends. He did have one great block. He finished with 2 points and 3 rebounds and 5 fouls.
Ryan Wright sure looked pretty good for a player who might redshirt when Mike Fey comes back. Contrary to his previously passive play, he was physical and aggressive in this game, showing a nice touch facing the basket, the ability to power it up when he gets the ball facing the basket and good rebounding skills. His back to the basket game is primitive. Ryan had 12 points, 9 rebounds and a nice block, and played effective defense. He definitely has potential to develop into at least a solid big man for the Bruins down the line.
I see no point in discussing the merits and demerits of the CSUMB players. Lamont played reasonably well, considering that his team got hit by a hurricane in Blue and Gold. Here are the overall stats: UCLA shot 58.6% from the field, CSUMB 24.6%. UCLA out rebounded the Otters 53-35. And UCLA made only 12 turnovers compared to 19 from the team up north. This game was over after about 3 minutes.
I assume New Mexico State will offer the Bruins a better challenge. They might even be better than Carleton…