First of all, let me start by saying that someone at Fox deserves to be shot. Repeatedly. Not only do they cut into the game because of freaking women's basketball games that have already been decided, but they also feel the need to take us through all of the post-game handshakes, then we need to see about five minutes of commercials, during which THEY RUN A PROMO FOR THE GAME THEY ARE CURRENTLY PRE-EMPTING!! Then, when they finally get us to the game, it's ONLY three minutes old at that time. Absolutely pathetic. Of course, this is only true for those of us outside of Southern California.
Some times, you don't have to do it with defense. Tale of two halves, really, as the Bruins opened a big lead in the first half before lackluster play in the closing minutes gave the Wildcats some life. The Bruins came out flying in the second half, stretching the lead to a game high 24 points before they decided to sit back and watch Arizona claw their way back into the game, as they trimmed a 24 point lead to 12 in less than five minutes. They didn't stop, trimming the lead all the way to seven points with less than eight minutes to play. But the Bruins finally put on a bandage on the wound and the Wildcats never got that close again. Honestly, after Arizona called a timeout with 18 minutes to go, it looked like the teams switched jerseys. UCLA mirrored Arizona's first half by turning the ball over possession after possession in the second half, which allowed Arizona to get back into the game. But in the end, the Bruins had too much, and the big lead they built was too much for Arizona to overcome. The Bruins improved to 19-4 on the season, 9-2 in the Pac 10. Their resume right now is tournament worthy, and they have seven regular season games plus the Pac 10 tournament left.
Aaron Afflalo has apparently shaken his slump. He netted a career high 27 points on 5-12 shooting, while going 13-16 from the free throw line. Good to see him taking the ball to the basket again. Farmar and Hollins also finished in double figures. But the most interesting line of the night belonged to LRMAM, with 11 points and 6 rebounds. On the surface, it's nothing special, but when you consider that he did it in 19 minutes, it becomes more impressive. Still, I question why the hell he was in the game with two fouls and a 19 point lead in the first half, where he promptly picked up his third.
The Bruins really struggled with Arizona's zone defense. They almost looked confused at times, content to pass the ball back and forth up top until they either turned it over, or the clock ran down, where they had to force something. A couple of times, Farmar was able to get the ball into a position for a kick out, twice leading to three pointers, one from Afflalo and one from Bozeman, his only three points on one of the two shots he took all night. Still, I thought Bozeman made a big contribution. He's arguably their best defender, and he moves the ball well on offense without getting in the way. He seems to be just about all the way back. Still, their disappointing play against the zone is the type of thing that other coaches can sniff out. Let's hope they work on that to the extent that they know how to deal with it a little better the next time, because I can guarantee you that they're going to see zone defense again before the season is over.
I've also noticed another trend I'm not to happy about. I don't like the way the Bruins respond to big leads. Last season they made big comebacks against Washington and U$C to win games in which they trailed by large amounts. This year they almost did the same against West Virginia. But their response to big leads that they hold has been a little disconcerting. Today marked the at least the third time they opened doors and let their opponent back into a game that should have not been in doubt. They already lost to Washington in a game where they held a big lead. they almost did the same against Washington State. They have a tendency to play to the level of their opponent, and that spells doom in a first or second round tournament game when they have a high seed target on their back. That's an intensity issue that Coach Howland will have to address.
Don't worry, Arizona fans. The last time you were swept by UCLA, you went on to win the National Championship. For some reason, I don't see that happening this year. But you could win the NIT. That's something, right?