Not Much to Take Away from Blow-Out

Everyone wants to see the high seeds blow out the lower seeds, and UCLA obliged Thursday, dominating #15-seed Weber State, 70-42, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. While you can't take much from the game, since Weber State wasn't very good, we try to squeeze a few take-aways out of it...

There isn't a great deal you can take from UCLA blowing out #15-seed Weber State, 70-42, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament here in Sacramento's Arco Arena. There was never really a worry that UCLA wouldn't win this game, and very little concern that it'd even be slightly close.

Even when Weber State was up 10-9, with 11 minutes left in the first half, there was still really no worry. The way the game started you knew it wasn't going to be close. For the first 8 minutes or so, even though the score was close, initially the signs for Weber State weren't good: UCLA missed open looks and Weber State couldn't get any, and you knew it was a matter of time.

But let's try take some things from this game, shall we?

-- While we weren't worried about Arron Afflalo, and knew the Cal game was just a one-game slump, it was reassuring that Afflalo scored 22 points, and made three three-pointers, and looked rested and energetic on defense. The eight rebounds were particularly impressive.

-- Darren Collison, apparently, isn't feeling any ill effects from his sprained ankle, since Ben Howland had him on the court when UCLA was up by 30 points with 4 minutes left in the game.

-- Howland apparently wanted to get some work in, since he had all the starters on the floor very late in the game when the game was decided.

-- Josh Shipp is providing a good third scoring option, and is really coming on when UCLA needs him. He had 12 points and hit two of four three-point attempts.

-- UCLA's defense had good intensity. In the first half, when the Bruins ballooned their lead to 18, they held Weber State to 0 field goals for 8 minutes and only 1 for 12 minutes. Weber State's leading scorer, David Patten, was held to six points and no field goals for most of the game, except for a dunk in garbage time, mostly being guard by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

Not much else.

Weber State is definitely not a good test. They weren't as good as the #15 seed UCLA faced a year ago in the NCAA Tournament, Belmont. Weber State couldn't even make it into UCLA's non-conference cupcake schedule.

UCLA did hold up its part of the bargain, though. Everyone watching March Madness wants to see the #1 and #2 seeds blow out their first-round opponent by 30 points, and the Bruins obliged.

It's funny – UCLA's offense against a zone. Weber State played zone for most of the game, and it appeared that UCLA is struggling against it, with a lack of movement and passing and tentativeness. But they still tend to score enough points against zones, even if it isn't easy to watch. Again, Weber State's zone wasn't a good test, leaving UCLA's outside shooters open at the three-point line constantly. Scouting Report for Weber State: Don't leave an All-American open at the three-point line. Oh, and don't leave a shooter like Mike Roll open at the three-point line. From UCLA's standpoint, there was very little penetration, especially on Collison's part. Perhaps that was a result of his ankle injury, but Collison never seems to be aggressive in penetrating against a zone. When he does finally penetrate and score easily, you tend to ask yourself, "Why isn't he doing that more?" Russell Westbrook penetrated once, laid off a nice interior pass to Alfred Aboya who fumbled it. Josh Shipp made some in-control penetrations, which definitely helped to loosen up the outside of the zone.

When Weber State did venture into a man every once in a while, they paid for it. While Afflalo's first three-pointer was significant, since he hadn't hit one in a while, perhaps the best was, in the second half, against the man, UCLA ran the staggered screens for Afflalo and Collison hit him in stride as he curled around the screens, and he pull up and hit a three in rhythm. That play looked more like it got Afflalo in rhythm on his shot that the earlier three he had made. The first few threes he shot, and even the first one he made, still didn't look like he was shooting them with confidence. The one off the curl did.

Lorenzo Mata gets special recognition for his "gutty" performance Thursday. He was nauseous, but as he sat on the sideline, Howland said, "I need you, Zo." Mata went back in, but then luckily there was a TV timeout, and Mata came to the sideline and immediately threw up into a bag. It was very close to Cade McNown, if it had happened on the floor. Even being so nauseous, Mata was dominant. Going against a mid-major frontline like that of Weber State's shows you the difference in talent level. He was attributed with 3 blocked shots, but it felt like more and, with him active under the basket with help defense, UCLA's guards were able to pressure Weber State's perimeter players and keep them from getting good looks. Weber State took only 38 shots for the game, which is particularly low.

Special recognition also has to go out to the Weber State cheerleaders. In the first half, when Aboya stepped to the free-throw line, the Wildcat cheerleaders used a unique tactic to try distract Aboya, with one cheerleader shaking her booty in a suggestive way. When Afflalo came to the line they were calling out, "Hey, number four…", while shaking their attributes. Those wanton Utah girls. Our L.A. boys are so sheltered it was almost too much to take.

So, if you're determining what else you can take from this game – UCLA definitely was focused, as was evident in their free-throw shooting, and overall. While, again, it's difficult to take much from the game since Weber State wasn't good, you could at least take that UCLA was all-business. The gauge for UCLA is their intensity on defense, and it was turned up for most of the game.

While everyone might have been very disappointed that UCLA lost its last two games of the season, successful teams seem to need some kind of wake-up call. In 1995, Ed O'Bannon said losing to Tulsa the year before in the tournament was his wake-up call that inspired him to win the NCAA Championship. Last year, it was all about losing to USC. Perhaps this year UCLA will want to send the Cal Bears a thank you note.


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