Pretty predictable result. Quite frankly, I thought Wisconsin would roll, and Illinois made it a lot closer than I expected. They were victimized by some poor officiating, two calls in particular, but even more so by their own inability to make free throws. They shot only 60% from the line, and it seemed like every time it mattered, they could never do any better than one out of two. That was huge down the stretch.
The refs didn't help. They took two points off the board for Illinois when Brian Randle jumped to catch an entry pass and bounced to the rim for the basket and the foul. The ref inexplicably ruled that the foul was on the floor, which was interesting considering he was on the floor for about a tenth of a second. Later, with Wisconsin leading by only two and under a minute to go, Marcus Landry of Wisconsin drove the basket and ran over Brian Randle for an offensive foul. Only, somehow the basket was allowed to count. He rose, hit Randle, released the ball, yet still got credit for the basket instead of having waved off. A two point lead was stretched to four, Randle made only one of two, and that was that.
Good game for Sean Pruitt who had 19 and 14 against only one turnover. Another 0-5 for Jamar Smith, who let's face it, if this is all due to his ankles, he needs to be out of the lineup until he's healthy. On his last few shots, he missed everything. It's been really ugly, and either way, he's hurting the team right now. He's trying hard, but he just doesn't have it. Randle finished with 8 points, and seemed to lift the Illini when he started to assert himself down the stretch. He's turning into a poor man's Frank Williams. He sit out the first 30 minutes, and in the last 10 minutes, he makes you think "where the hell was he in the first 30 minutes?!" Oh well, the descent continues.
Boy is there egg on my face after I said Arizona would probably win. I forgot that they're loaded with guys who a) can't play defense, and b) struggle against teams that actually can play defense (UCLA, U$C, Wazzu....guess who three of Arizona's losses have come against?). A certain Cat fan once said "Defense is overrated; especially if you shoot 60% from the field." I've really only watched Arizona's last three games (48% against Oregon, 38% against U$C, and 39% against UCLA) so I guess I would have to watch a team that consistently shoots 60% to test that theory. Keep in mind that UCLA was missing its best interior defender as well.
Mustapha Shakur (11 points - six of which came in garbage time when the game had already been decided, 8 assists, 3 turnovers) showed why after four years, he remains one of the most overrated point guards in college basketball, as he was pretty much completely owned by a sophomore who wasn't supposed to be anything more than a backup this season (Collison had 14, 7, and 2). Juwann McLellan has gotten so bad that Lute is wishing he had kicked off a kid earlier in the season only so that he could reinstate him to replace McLellan. I'll give credit to Ivan Radenovic, who I actually noticed in the second half for the first time in his four years at Arizona.
A lot has been made of UCLA's "struggles" against zone defenses. Teams play zone defenses in an effort to make it difficult to get the ball inside (which often helps protect their own big men from foul trouble). The idea is to force your opponent into jump shots, and make the guards beat you. If teams want to play a style that dares Collison, Afflalo, Roll, Westbrook, and occasionally Shipp to beat them, well, good luck with that.
Deserving of recognition for UCLA:
- Alfred Aboya was only 1-4 from the field, but he grabbed 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive end, and made all of his free throws.
- Michael Roll was only 3-9 from beyond arc, but finished with 13 points and a nice assist on the interior after breaking down the defense.
- And of course, Aaron Afflalo was the player of the game yet again, going 9-14, including 3-6 from three, for 22 points. In addition, he held down Marcus Williams to 11 points., who finished with 11 points 4-12 shooting, and turned the ball over four times.