Not Much to Take Away from ISU

UCLA beats up on cupcake Idaho State, 89-49, and it raises a question: Is there anything UCLA can actually get out of playing such a bad non-conference team at this time in the schedule, or is it actually a detriment?

You can't take much from UCLA's trouncing of Idaho State, 89-49.

Anything you try to conclude from the game you have to qualify by saying, "But it was against Idaho State."

The fact that UCLA's zone offense was efficient against ISU's 1-1-3 zone, really, means nothing, because the zone was so bad. We've never seen UCLA get off a good shot against a zone so early in a shot clock in Ben Howland's time at UCLA. The zone, obviously, conceded the three-pointer rather than allow Kevin Love lay-ups, but still – it was common that Josh Shipp, Darren Collison and Mike Roll had an open look with their toe on the three-point arc without even a defender attempting to close out on them.

It's hard to conclude that UCLA's defense was good. On one hand, you could say that keeping any team below 50 points and to a 37% field goal percentage is good defense. On the other hand, ISU is only averaging 61 points per game and if you watched UCLA's defense there wasn't a lot of intensity. Even Russell Westbrook looked like his defensive effort was dialed down a bit.

It's the issue we had discussed before – whether a game like this is even worth it. For one thing, if it gets your team complacent, and gives them even one opportunity to slack off and still beat a team by 40 – is that good? Is working against a poor zone good work?

It's almost not worth the 40-minute risk of getting someone injured.

Maybe it got the team some three-point shooting practice in a game situation. They shot 11 of 26 (42%). Perhaps it gave Love a little more experience at post defense, since ISU's Lucas Steijn is a decent post scorer who did take Love on the block a number of times.

It was good to see Mike Roll knock down his first jumpers of the season, hitting three of six from three. He did, though, allow his man to go around him a few times on defense.

Collison, now, shouldn't have any excuses that he's not recovered enough from his knee injury. He doesn't look tentative at all anymore, leading all scorers with 20 points, with six rebounds and five assists.

Perhaps the best thing to get out of the game for UCLA was to practice shooting free throws in a game situation. UCLA shot 94%, and that was with its two best free-throw shooters, Shipp and Collison, only shooting one free throw, with even Lorenzo Mata going 2 for 2 (he did bank one in, however). A really good sign was Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alfred Aboya, two guys who tend to get fouled a lot, both going 4 for 4.

Uh, what else?

There was walk-on Matt Lee's, Hail-Mary, buzzer-beating three pointer, which was easily the most exciting aspect of the night.

A definitely good take-away from the game are the new scoreboards in Pauley Pavilion. The boards on the corners, right above the locker rooms, were a great addition. The video advertisement board under the scoring table, though, reflects glare if you're sitting on the north side of the arena.

Perhaps it might require sun glasses. Both the reflection from the advertisment board and the game. Because there seemed to be a lot of people not watching the game, the crowd realizing there wasn't much to really watch.

And it doesn't get better from here. If you thought that Idaho State was UCLA's worst non-conference opponent, you haven't seen Western Illinois, which comes to Pauley Pavilion Tuesday. The Leathernecks are 3-6, having lost to Texas Pan-American by 13 and IUPUI by 17. Missouri beat them by 39.

Without facing any really tough non-conference opponent on the road (UCLA goes to Michigan Dec. 22nd), and some real cupcakes, there is an issue of whether UCLA can use this part of its schedule to prepare for the tough Pac-10 conference. Cupcakes have their place -- at the early part of the schedule, just as a warm-up, to get your guys on the floor and comfortable, without having to risk a loss. It's difficult, though, to conclude that playing ISU at this point helps UCLA work on some the aspects it needs to improve upon – like a zone offense, starting a game with intensity, etc. Perhaps, it gives UCLA the opportunity to work on more things in practice since it doesn't have to worry too much about its opponents. But you could make a case that playing the Idaho States and Western Illinoises of the world, right now at this point of the schedule, doesn't help UCLA get better but just gets them complacent.


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