Review of the Maryland Game

UCLA, which now shares the #1 ranking in the country, without two of its guards, returned Monday to what made Ben Howland's Bruins good -- defense and rebounding -- in dominating Maryland, 71-59, in the semi-final of the CBE Classic...

Beating Maryland, 71-59, in the semi-final of the CBE Classic in Kansas City Monday obviously showed how much #1-ranked UCLA misses Darren Colllison and Mike Roll.

But it also provided an example of how much UCLA would, hypothetically, miss Kevin Love.

When Love was in the game, the Bruins gelled. When he was out, they went flat, particularly on offense.

It's almost like a time warp. With Love in the game, UCLA's offense is a dynamic, inside-outside, multi-dimensional attack. Watching the offense without him, you get a rush of déjà vu, flashing back on how UCLA's offense would go stagnant the last few years without an inside scoring threat.

Luckily, UCLA only had to do that for six minutes last night, since Love played 34 minutes in the game. But man, they were a long six minutes.

It was a good step forward for Love in his college career. He went from playing against bad D-1 competition (and D-2) to now playing a team that is probably the lower end of the high majors. Maryland had some athletes, so it gave Love a taste of facing that kind of athleticism. Bambale Osby and James Gist, while athletic, though, are still just 6-7ish, and he'll have some 6-9+ athletes coming down the line this season.

Love, though, having played against the likes of Greg Oden in AAU ball, should be well prepared.

Love handled Maryland's guys inside, using pump fakes and his overall bulk to combine for effectiveness underneath. He didn't get many opportunities to post up, catch the ball and display a post move, but he still scored a team-leading 18 points. Is offensive game, against some athletic front lines this season, might constitute getting fouled in the post and then having to knock down his free throws, which he didn't do well Monday, making just five of twelve.

Obviously Love's most dominant contribution against Maryland was rebounding, finishing with 16 after getting 10 in the first half. That was perhaps the best indication you could take from the game Monday – that against good frontline athletes Love still dominated the boards. There were a couple of times where a Terp had position for a rebound but Love just put his big body in the way and took it.

Probably the biggest factor in UCLA beating Maryland was the edge in rebounding, 40-28. The boxscore indicated that Maryland had 8 offensive rebounds, but I don't remember near that many, with the Terps only able to put up one shot on almost every possession because of UCLA's rebounding dominance.

It's tough to win a game when you're getting only one shot per possession and the opposing team's defense is so good that you're shooting only 40% from the field.

Again, it's a great recipe for success, and one that will always keep you in games – defense and rebounding. And now that UCLA has Kevin Love, a guy who is averaging 11.8 rebounds per game in his first four college games, it's even more smothering of an approach.

UCLA will have to rely on that combo of defense and rebounding as long as they don't have Collison and Roll. Without those two, UCLA's offense struggled at times. There were stretches of the game, when Josh Shipp was out early because of two fouls, you wondered who could make an outside shot consistently among the players on the floor. The Bruins shot just 30% from three.

Russell Westbrook did well, especially against Maryland's game-long ¾ press. He had just three turnovers playing 38 minutes, with 7 assists. He generally made good decisions, and played good defense against Maryland's best player, Greivis Vasquez. Westbrook's three-point at 8:15 left in the game was a big one, keeping the lead at 13 when Maryland was picking up its intensity to make a last-ditch run.

If UCLA can get through Michigan State tonight and win the CBE Classic, without Collison and Roll, with the entire ball-handling and point guard duties having been handled by Westbrook, it will be quite an accomplishment for the sophomore guard.

Josh Shipp had a typical Josh Shipp type of games. There are elements that are frustrating but then he provides moments that are key in the win. In the second half, with UCLA needing some strong ball-handling, he seemed to get a bit lazy, which gave Maryland a few turnovers out of their press and sparked a min-run to bring them to within low double-digits of UCLA late in the second half. But he also sparked a UCLA run himself early in the second half, with his three-pointer helping to build a 20-point lead.

The one aspect of UCLA's offense that was consistently disappointing was the use of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. For much of the game he was guarded by 6-3, 175-pound Eric Hayes, giving UCLA a clear mis-match. But I remember UCLA only exploiting it once, with Mbah a Moute posting up Hayes in the second half and easily beating him for a basket.

Overall, though, missing two of your top six players – with one of them considered the best point guard in the country – it's impressive that the Bruins can so decisively beat an ACC team. And when we all might start to forget about what got Ben Howland's Bruins to this point in college basketball, it takes a game like this to remind us: defense and rebounding. Maryland's Head Coach Gary Williams said after the game that you won't see any better man-to-man defense in the country. When an opposing coach says, "…with the kind of defense UCLA is known for…" you, again, realize, how far this program has come.

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