Bruins Hold Off Owls, 54-47

The Bruins play one of their best first halves in recent memory, then collapse in the second half but hold on to beat Temple, with Arron Afflalo and Cedric Bozeman getting them through it. They also suffered a couple of worrisome injuries...

It's hard to say what the biggest story of the night was: UCLA's tough 54-47 victory over a stubborn Temple team which refused to go away in the second half, or new injuries to Jordan Farmar and Michael Fey. As I was leaving Pauley Pavilion the post-game announcers on Bruin Radio said that Jordan was on crutches and would have his right ankle x-rayed and Mike was scheduled to have an MRI on his shoulder Thursday night. Mike left the floor with about 6 minutes left in the game and Jordan suffered his injury with about 2 minutes left, but then came back in the game for the last sequence. This certainly can't be good news for the Bruins, who will be playing their 3rd game in 5 days Saturday night against a solid Delaware State squad.

A side note: Some members of the UCLA student section wore slings on their arms, no doubt in reference to Temple Head Coach John Chaney (rather than the state of UCLA's current squad), who last season sent in one of his players against St. Joseph's to intentionally foul people. One of those intentional fouls resulted in a broken arm for a St. Joe's player and a 5-game suspension for Chaney, the Hall of Famer.

But back to this game: As expected, UCLA was unable to force Temple into many turnovers (just 5 for the game) and the Bruins were consequently forced to rely on their half-court offense for most of the game. For the first 10:30 of the first half, the result was a 14-14 tie, with UCLA's poor performance of its zone offense offset by the excellent defense of Arron Afflalo, Cedric Bozeman and Luc Richard Mbah A Moute (Ryan Hollins and Mike Fey lent credible backline support). At the 12:25 mark of the first half, Darren Collison had subbed in for Farmar, who was saddled with 2 fouls and had been playing porous d. Collison played a whole measure quicker than Farmar in terms of foot speed, passing the ball and reacting to the Temple zone, and even more so on defense, and Mike Roll also came in to make some contributions at both ends, and the Bruins simply took off at the 9:30 mark, going on a 12-1 run and outscoring Temple 19-4 for the rest of the half to take a 33-18 halftime lead.

But the Owls came out of the gate in the second half with renewed vigor. The Owls' offense is a little peculiar. Mainly, they have four guys who basically go one-on-one and either beat the defender or force up a bad shot, while the lone post player sets screens and is rarely in a position to rebound. But with All-American candidate Mardy Collins starting to assert himself and freshman Dionte Christmas knocking down some 3s, the Owl offense picked in the second half.

More importantly for Temple, their zone really clamped down on the Bruins, cutting off interior passes and penetration and repeatedly forcing the Bruins to simply pass it around the perimeter for 33 seconds before forcing up a bad shot. The Bruins hit only 37% as a team for the game and only made 7-25 from 3. Jordan Farmar, in particular, was stymied by the tall Owls' zone and seemed to be moving in slow motion at times. His defense was also mediocre at best. This will definitely go down as one of Jordan's worst games of the season, as he finished with 4 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, hitting just 2-7 from the field and missing all 3 of his attempts beyond the arc.

Indeed, as UCLA continued to struggle against the Temple zone (both Darren Collison and Mike Roll were very ineffective in the second half), it seemed as if Temple was poised to take the lead and maybe the game. They got the lead down to 47-44 with barely 3 minutes to go and seemed to have the momentum. It was only then that Ben Howland finally made an adjustment to UCLA's zone offense, moving Ced Bozeman to the point and Jordan Farmar to the 2. Ced, with his combination of height, poise and savvy, broke down the Temple offense on successive plays, giving the Bruins an insurmountable 51-44 lead with 1:45 left. One reason why the Bruin lead was insurmountable at that point was that Temple, remarkably, had only been called for one foul in the entire second half (and that foul wasn't called until the 3:58 mark). Suddenly, Temple had to commit 6 fouls in about 30 seconds to keep the Bruins from dribbling the clock away… which they managed to do anyway with some more clever play by Ced Bozeman and some surprising fire from Ryan Hollins, who helped the Bruins to 3 extra possessions in the final minute by either grabbing the rebound or knocking a rebound loose for someone else on his team to grab. The Bruins hit 81.3% of their free throws in this game, a crucial factor in crunch time and before.

Arron Afflalo led the Bruins in scoring for the second game in a row, finishing with 18 points. He was 4-11 from 3, but that passes for good shooting on this Bruin squad. More importantly, Arron had the principal role in shading Mardy Collins on defense, and while Collins finished with 15 points and 9 rebounds, he was only 4-15 from the field and was totally ineffective in the first half when the Bruins made the run that basically kept them on top for the rest of the game. Arron also added 5 rebounds.

Ced Bozeman had 11 points and 9 rebounds, but those numbers don't begin to measure his contributions in this game. He helped on Collins and shaded Mark Tyndale to a 3-12 night from the field. His ball handling and passing were crisp and timely. When it came to crunch time, he took over the Bruin offense and made it work in the most pressure-packed moments of the game. Ced didn't receive any credits for assists, but it was his pass which led to the pass which led to the assist on 5 of the Bruins' 10 assists. Ced even added a 3. It's hard to tell who the better defender is between Arron and Ced, but these two guys have to be amongst the best defenders in the entire Pac-10.

Luc Richard Mbah A Moute was only credited with 10 rebounds by the official scorer, but that's a crock. I'm a pretty conservative statistician, and I had Luc with 14 rebounds (he tipped 5 other balls to his teammates for their rebounds). He played excellent defense throughout the game, breaking down on tough match up Antwayne Robinson only once, and he scored 8 points, 2 on a short jumper and 6 on interior baskets, which were in short supply for the Bruins this night despite the fact that Temple played the majority of its minutes without a center.

Ryan Hollins had a mediocre first half, dropping passes and rebounds, but as I noted above he came on strong down the stretch and finished with 7 points and 6 rebounds. He was often matched against 6-6 Dion Dacons or 6-5 DaShone Kirkendoll, so he should've been productive down the stretch, but the Bruins had difficulty finding him over the tall Temple guards and perhaps his teammates lack of faith in his hands. Mike Fey, before he left with his shoulder injury, was almost completely ineffectual, also dropping passes and rebounds, finishing with 0 points and 1 rebound. I thought UCLA would be able to take advantage of Temple's inexperienced post players to do some damage inside tonight. I was wrong (except for Ryan's play in the last 4 minutes of the game).

Darren Collison and Mike Roll each hit a 3. Both played very well in the first half, contributing on defense and helping the zone offense execute. Mike had 2 nice assists. As noted, neither player was able to contribute much in the second half, with Mike making some bad turnovers and having a lot of trouble staying with his man on the defensive end of the floor. But that is what the preseason is for: The freshmen have to play and gain experience to get better.

Lorenzo Mata didn't play. I assume that was a coach's decision.

Overall, the Bruins survived a tough match-up with good team defense and enough fuel on offense to survive the Owls' final onslaught. It's obvious that the Bruins need to cause turnovers and get out and run if they want to pull away from good teams. Tonight, they were forced to rely on their half-court offense and the results were decidedly mixed. They looked terrific for those 9 and a half minutes at the end of the first half, and they looked pretty bad for most of the rest of the game, scoring only 35 points in 30 minutes. Fortunately, Temple is a singular team, one simply not prone to turnovers, and the Bruins are unlikely to face such a careful team for the rest of the season. Most of the teams in the Pac-10 will play at a faster tempo than the Owls and will try to run with the Bruins. UCLA has excellent defenders and they will force their opponents into mistakes. This game was probably an aberration in a number of facets.

Now the Bruins must prepare for a short rest and then a match-up with Delaware State Saturday night. And, as of the time of this writing, it seems fairly likely they will be playing without Jordan Farmar or Mike Fey.

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