UCLA Limps By Oregon State

With three frontcourt players out, UCLA was at a big disadvantage in the post against Oregon State Thursday night. But it still won, 65-56, after a good half and a great performance by Tyler Honeycutt...

While UCLA beating Oregon State, 65-56, doesn't have much significance, and the game overall was played poorly on both sides, it was interesting to watch from a tactical standpoint.

Hey, I'm getting my motivation just about anyway I can these days.

UCLA was without James Keefe, Reeves Nelson and Brendan Lane, which made it interesting to see how the Bruins would adapt on its front line.

Oregon State, also, plays a trapping 1-3-1 zone, which makes your offense have to execute completely differently than it would against other zones or man.

Without three frontline players, UCLA got badly out-rebounded, 40-24. In fact, Oregon State out-rebounded the Bruins on their offensive side of the floor, with 21 offensive rebounds to UCLA's 18 defensive rebounds.

But Oregon State shot just 34% for the game. So while they were getting a lot of chances on the offensive side they simply couldn't put the ball in the bucket. But man, sometimes it felt like OSU was on its offensive side of the floor for a couple of minutes in one possession. And it wasn't that UCLA's defense was so good; Oregon State is just a poor shooting team.

UCLA got off to a good start, holding a ten-point advantage at halftime and looked good in the first half – for a couple of reasons. Offensively, the Bruins were executing very well against the 1-3-1, spreading the floor and finding cutters to get either lay-ups or short jumpers. Tyler Honeycutt took advantage, finding open seams and scoring 13 first-half points. Defensively, the UCLA zone was working effectively, especially with J'mison Morgan playing the five. His size and length really lends itself to the zone, and it's especially clear when the only other post option is Nikola Dragovic. Bobo, in the first half, impacted the game quite a bit, not only scoring 4 points and getting 2 rebounds with 2 blocks, but he forced a couple of turnovers and altered a couple of shots.

But then, to start the second half, Oregon State made some adjustments that were very effective. Defensively, it started closing out quickly when a Bruin would catch the ball in a seam. UCLA started turning over the ball, committing 8 turnovers in the second half as opposed to the 4 in the first half. Honeycutt went scoreless for ten minutes, and UCLA's offense sputtered.

Then, also, on the other end, OSU coach Craig Robinson adjusted to Dragovic getting the majority of the minutes at the five for UCLA. The Beavers came out in the second half with Joe Burton starting inside and he responded with a quick 6 points in a few minutes. Burton was also out-rebounding the Bruins, getting 3 quick offensive rebounds in the first couple of minutes. There was no way Dragovic could body up on the 280-pound Burton inside. Burton had just 4 points and 2 rebounds in the first half, but matching up against Dragovic for so many minutes in the second half, he finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds for the game.

So, of course, you'd think that UCLA would counter quickly with Morgan, realizing that it needed to get a big body in the game to stop Oregon from pounding the ball inside. But it didn't happen. Oregon State easily starting converting easy baskets, cutting the lead to 5 after four minutes in the second half when Howland called a timeout. But still no Bobo. When Burton made an easy uncontested lay-up at the 14:46 mark to cut the lead to three, the game was pretty much on, and you could see that the tone, style and pace had been set for the half by Oregon State.

Bobo finally got in the game at the 12:48 mark, and he played a total of just 4 second-half minutes (after playing 8 in the first half), and there was a reprieve on OSU's surge. UCLA held a 7- to 10-point lead for a few minutes, while the Beavers couldn't get inside to score.

In that time, Dragovic did hit a couple of threes, but his slack defense on the other end was greatly responsible for UCLA allowing 12 points. See, that's the thing with Dragovic; he'll get you six points but he'll be responsible for giving up 12.

When Dragovic took a badly ill-advised shot from about 26 feet with 30 seconds left on the shot clock, and OSU countered with a three from Lathen Wallace, the lead was cut again to 6, 46-40. Howland yanked Dragovic and even admitted in his post-game comments that he should "do that more to him."

Of course, Honeycutt was clearly the only pro on the court. What's uncanny is that he impacts the game in so many ways on both ends of the floor. Just about every 15 seconds or so he's doing something, from blocking a shot, tying up a defender, making a great assist, pulling down a rebound in traffic, or hitting a smooth jumper. He finished with a career-high 18 points, and had a double-double (his third of the season), with 10 rebounds, while also getting 5 blocks and 4 assists.

Mike Roll had just 3 points, on 1-of-6 shooting from three, but he was the de facto point guard against the 1-3-1, with 7 assists against 3 turnovers.

Malcolm Lee did his thing in manufacturing points, getting 13 points on garbage or breaks. He missed three shots in a row badly in the second half, not hitting iron on any one of them.

Dragovic also manufactured points. After getting 0 in the first half, he had 14 in the second half, going 4 for 4 from the free-throw line. Playing the five on defense, being right under the basket, he had just 2 rebounds.

It wasn't really a mystery why Bobo didn't play much in the second half. Howland has his substitution pattern that he generally sticks to in every game. He gets his subs in during the first half and then, unless a starter is in foul trouble, the starters play a majority of the second half. In this game, it seemed he stuck to that plan regardless of what was actually happening on the court.

It is truly the Season of the Dragovic.

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