Bruins Trip Up in Seattle, Lose 70-67

UCLA lost to Washington on Saturday, 70-67, in a foul-ridden but exciting game that the Bruins easily had a chance to win down the stretch. With UCLA's backcourt not playing well, they looked to their players from Cameroon...

13th-ranked UCLA (20-5, 10-3) fell to #21 Washington (18-5, 7-5) in Seattle Saturday afternoon in a foul-plagued game that saw the two teams combine for an astounding 63 total foul shots as the Pac-10 officiating crew of Bill Kennedy, Michael Irving and Tony Padilla called 54 fouls in the game, 27 on each team.

Washington hit 28-34 from the line, a superb 82.4%, while UCLA was only 19-29, for 65.5%. That, combined with 20 Bruin turnovers, enabled the Huskies to overcome another excellent defensive effort by the Bruins, who held Washington to 39.6% shooting from the field and also out-rebounded the Dawgs by a margin of 32-22.

The game started out like it was going to track the UCLA/WSU game in tempo and pace. UCLA played suffocating defense against Washington, but the Huskies did a very good job of denying UCLA's efforts to rotate the ball from above the circle to its wings after they came up from a pick in the lane. Jordan Farmar turned the ball over 6 times in the first half trying to force his passes to Arron Afflalo or Cedric Bozeman as they came out for the ball along the sidelines. Give UDub Head Coach Lorenzo Romar credit as the Huskies repeatedly disrupted the flow of the Bruin offense and exposed UCLA's limited ability to innovate when faced with good directed pressure. With all of its turnovers, UCLA was unable to capitalize on its own tough defense, which focused on harassing Brandon Roy all over the floor and controlling the lane, denying the midrange games of UDub's quartet of post players Bobby Jones, Jamaal Williams, Mike Jensen and Jon Brockman. No doubt UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland had made shutting down the Huskies' post game a point of emphasis this time around after Brockman and Williams shredded UCLA's defense in the second half in UDub's victory over the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion in January. With Washington struggling to score, and UCLA struggling just to hold onto the ball or run a play through to completion, the first half ended with UDub leading just 28-24.

The scoring sped up quickly in the second half as both teams quickly drew a plethora of whistles from the refs. Apparently, the teams weren't going to be allowed to continue the first half's physical style of play in the second half, but someone forgot to tell the players. Neither team adjusted its style, and Washington was in the bonus just 6:40 into the half. Ryan Hollins, after getting 7 points and 9 rebounds in the first half, got his 4th foul at the 12:48 mark and fouled out at the 11:54 mark. By then, Arron Afflalo had 4 fouls and Jordan Farmar and Alfred Aboya each had 3 fouls.

Both teams continued to foul as they traded leads several times. The game was essentially reduced to a foul-shooting contest for the final 13 minutes, and Washington proved the far better team when it came to that particular skill. Although Farmar and Afflalo are the more ballyhooed pair of guards, they were simply outplayed in this game by Justin Dentmon and Brandon Roy, who finished with 16 and 20 points, respectively, with Dentmon hitting 6-6 from the foul line and blowing by Farmar on several occasions, while Roy, though frequently denied good looks from the field by Afflalo and Bozeman, made 13-15 of his foul shots and also added 7 assists as the Huskies repeatedly ran their offense through the physical, athletic and versatile Roy. Farmar missed 4 shots at the rim in this game and couldn't finish his penetration plays as Washington swarmed him whenever he made a jump stop in the lane. Farmar was just 2-13 from the field while Afflalo hit just 2-10. Farmar had 13 points and 5 assists versus 7 turnovers (just 1 miscue in the second half), while Afflalo had perhaps his worst offensive effort of the season, finishing with just 5 points.

Looking for offense in unusual places, the Bruins found it in the second half in its Cameroonian forwards, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute and Alfred Aboya. Mbah A Moute got 9 points in the second half (11 for the game) while Aboya scored 13 (15 total). Mbah A Moute spent the afternoon tracking down Jones and Williams and wasn't able to hit the boards with his usual abandon, but Aboya took down 7 rebounds in the second half, 8 for the game, as he played what was easily the best game of his young career. The Bruins were able to control the glass throughout the game, and they also forced 9 Husky turnovers in the second half, most in the final 8 minutes, and this enabled the Bruins to stay close despite the poor play of its "veteran" guards.

Even plagued with foul trouble and only managing a combined 4-21 from 3-point range, the Bruins were able to keep pace with Washington, holding a slim 60-58 lead with 3:30 to go in the game. But with UDub in a 3-2 zone, UCLA missed forced 3-point attempts on consecutive possessions and Washington went on a 6-0 run over the next minute and a half to take a 64-60 lead. Ben Howland had burned his last timeout just prior to the run, and he was unable to give direction to his team during this critical stretch or what happened afterward. With less than 2 minutes remaining, the Bruins were in desperate straits. Farmar penetrated off the dribble and drew a foul, making the subsequent foul shots. Brandon Roy posted up at the other end of the floor, and when Aboya came over to double him, Roy threw a beautiful entry pass to Brockman for the dunk. With UDub again up by 4, 66-62, Farmar missed a cripple at the rim after a sweet dribble drive along the baseline. UDub pushed the ball back up the floor, but Farmar stole it and fed Mbah A Moute for the driving lay up to cut the lead to 66-64 with just 32 seconds remaining.

Romar called time out to set up his offense, but this allowed Howland to set up his own strategy. The Bruins tried to deny the inbounds pass, but UDub got it in to Bobby Jones, who was fouled immediately. Jones made both foul shots to give him team a seemingly insurmountable 4-point lead, 68-64, with just 24 seconds to go. But Farmar drove on Dentmon again and this time drew the foul, knocking down 2 foul shots at the 20 second mark. On the ensuing play, Darren Collison stole the ball and drove to the hoop. He missed the lay up, but was fouled. Collison missed the first free throw, but made the second, drawing the Bruins to within 1, 68-67. Washington got the ball in to its own FR PG, Dentmon, who drew the foul. He calmly nailed both foul shots, making the score 70-67 and setting up the final play. Farmar got the ball and drove the length of the floor, flinging up a desperation 3-pointer, but Roy got his fingers on the ball and the shot fell short as the final buzzer sounded.

The Bruins can draw some consolation from this loss as well as learn a few lessons. Despite the sub-par play of its starting backcourt, UCLA got stellar performances from Aboya and Mbah A Moute in the second half and Hollins in the first half. These three post players combined for 33 points and 21 rebounds. Collison, after a poor first half, played very well down the stretch and finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists and didn't make a turnover in the second half in extended play. Overall, the Bruins' defense was excellent, although they failed to adjust to the officiating and committed far too many fouls.

On the other hand, Washington's athleticism allowed them to apply relentless pressure whenever UCLA tried to initiate its half court offense. The Bruins invariably begin their sets by moving the ball from the point guard to a wing who is either coming off a post screen down low or simply expects to shake his man through effort. Washington's choice to deny this initial pass led to 14 Bruin turnovers in the first half as UCLA's players were forced into unexplored territory. UCLA adjusted its offense at halftime, relying on more dribble penetration by its point guards and utilizing a high post offense, but clearly UCLA's offense simply wasn't efficient in either half as the Bruins barely hit 40% of their own shots in the second 20 minutes (13-32 from the field) as the Huskies alternated between a man d and a 3-2 zone.

The Bruins won't face another team with as much depth or athleticism as the Huskies in the remainder of the Pac-10 schedule, but they will certainly face that type of team during the NCAA Tournament, at least by the Sweet 16. The top 10 is dominated by athletic teams, with some notable exceptions. A game like this helps prepare UCLA for a test of fire against the likes of Villanova or GW. The Bruins must find a way of scoring (and not turning the ball over) against a quicker team which plays just as physically as they do. The Bruins must also improve against zones. The often shaky decision-making of Farmar will be a key factor in every Bruin game, as he so often dominates the ball. On the other hand, the play of Aboya and Mbah A Moute (and Hollins in the first half) illustrates that the Bruins have more weapons, and more athletic ability, than their offense is currently geared to exploit, at least as primary options. What Ben Howland does with this information could well determine how deep the Bruins go in the Tournament this season.

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