Not exactly where I expected the score to be after about 15 minutes of truly horrid offense from both teams to start the game. But suddenly Darren Collison found his shooting touch, the UCLA defense started forcing turnovers, things started to open up, and what was an 11-11 game with 5:35 left in the half turned into a 29-18 first half lead for the Bruins. 11 points in almost fifteen minutes, and 18 in the last 5+.
It was the Bruins starters who led the way, save for a quiet statistical night by LRMAM. Love, Collison, Shipp, and Westbrook all hit double figures, Love's 18 points leading the way to go along with his 12 rebounds, and a couple of the bullet passes that have really been a joy to watch this season. For a team that didn't make a jump shot until the final 10 minutes or so against Oregon, the Bruins shot the ball pretty well. They were 49% for the game and 10-20 from beyond the arc, which is almost a requirement if you're going to beat a team that relies so heavily on the zone.
Personally, I hate zone defenses. They're tediously boring to watch, and to my mind, they're essentially an admission that your team is simply not good enough to play man to man (and I'm sure it's not a coincidence that my two favorite teams, UCLA and Illinois, are coached by men who flat our refuse to give in and play zone). And while the conventional wisdom says the Bruins have struggled against the zone in the Howland era, I'm not quite sure the facts bear that out. Part of the problem is they just don't "look" good against the zone. They've never had a boatload of shooters to bust zones up, and they typically run the shot clock out before shooting. But this tends to be more typical in the first half as they probe the zone and get used to playing against it. They rarely struggle in the second half against zone defenses, and last night was no exception, as they put up 41 points to cruise to the easy victory. I think their struggles against zones are oversold, and going into the tournament, it's not really something that concerns me.
Josh Shipp finally showed signs of breaking out of his slump, hitting his first three of the game, and first in 21 shots, before looking awful on his next two. Two of those came in a relatively pressure free second half, but the key right now is confidence, and hopefully he regained a fair amount last night. Darren Collison, in comparison, knocked down five of the six he attempted, and four of those came in the first half when things were still in doubt, including a terrific shot at the end of the first half that gave the Bruins a double digit lead that they would never relinquish.
Has any team been as crazy as ASU this year? They have wins over Xavier, Berkeley, Stanford, and two over Arizona. But they've been just decimated twice by UCLA, and they were slaughtered by an awful Illinois team to start the season. They probably need at least two conference wins, and a win in the Pac 10 tourney to make the tournament. Not sure if they can pull it off. The good news for them is that they finish with the Oregon schools. That OSU game could be tough. It's the last game of the conference season, and OSU will probably be gunning for their only conference team. They could be dangerous. Crappy, but dangerous.
On to Tucson to face a reeling Arizona squad that looks like they have NCAA tournament issues of their own. They'll be looking for payback after the drubbing they took at Pauley.