Sunday, January 04, 2009

UCLA Wins, Illinois Loses

Illinois 64; Michigan 74

The Illini gave it a good effort, but they appeared to wear down a little bit in the end, failing to execute their offense, failing to keep Michigan from executing theirs. The overtime victory at Purdue may have taken a little too much out of them. But they got a split in their first two conference teams, both on the road against teams that will end up the Big Ten's top half. That's a tough row to hoe, but the road victory at Mackey gives them a nice leg up early.

Michigan is clearly much improved, but I thought the Illini attacked their 1-3-1 pretty well. Much better than UCLA did when they played Michigan earlier in the season. The problem came on the defensive end. Give Michigan credit for creating a lot of confusion on the Illini defensive end. That led to a lot of open looks, and Michigan knocked them down, connecting on over 40% of their three pointers. That's Beilein's offense. Michigan will win when they shoot 40% or better from three. They'll lose when they shoot 30% or worse. And they will have nights like that.

Calvin Brock was the Illini's best player, in my opinion. He's very active. He's their most athletic player. And if he shoots the ball like he did today, he can be real impact player. Tisdale and Davis were solid offensively, but Tisdale really needs to learn to defend. Despite being a perimeter oriented team, Michigan got too many easy baskets when they took the ball to the rim.

Four of their next six games are against ranked opponents, including a rematch with Michigan at the Assembly Hall in 10 days. The good news is that four of those six games are at home.

UCLA 83; Oregon 74

This one was closer than it should have been, but Oregon was fired up after a terrible performance against U$C on Friday. The crowd really gave Oregon a lift, and decent shooting kept the Bruins from pulling away and making it easy. The Bruins led the game wire to wire, but it was never comfortable.

The Bruins built their lead on impressive shooting, going 8-10 from long range in the first half. They finished a blazing 13-22, thanks mostly to Josh Shipp's unconcious 5-6. In fact, the only Bruin who shot less than 50% from the arc was Michael Roll, one of the nation's best long range gunners (he was 1-3). Nikola Dragovic took advantage of open looks to make four deep balls, and scored a career high 12 points. Darren Collison led the Bruins with 22, but did most of his damage from inside the arc and from the free throw line, where he was 9-9. He's shooting better than 97% from the line, and has made something like 40 in a row. But it was really Shipp who made the difference. He made four threes in the second half, all with under 15 to play. Two followed Oregon baskets, squelching their momentum. They all came with the game within six or fewer points. He was clutch tonight. He raised his three point percentage from 21.6% to just over 30%. If he's regained his touch, then this becomes an outstanding long range team, and that means fewer zone defenses, or more open shots.

The Bruins defense was not up to its usual standards. Part of that was due to the way the game was officiated. In the first half, the game was called very tight on the Bruins defensive end, and that may have contributed to some tentative play in the second half. The Ducks got too many good looks, and had too many easy baskets in the lane.

Still, the only player who really disappointed tonight for the Bruins was Jrue Holliday. Turnover numbers aren't on ESPN's box score yet, but he seemed to struggle for much of the game, and showed occasionaly happy feet that led to traveling calls.

We'll see what the future holds for Oregon, but something tells me they're closer to the team that played Friday than the team that played tonight. But UCLA has won the conference three straight years, and they can expect this kind of shot when they go on the road. The bottom line is that there are 16 Pac 10 games left, and more than half will be at Pauley Pavilion. For the 2-0 Bruins, that's a nice position to be in.


Anonymous said...

Still waiting for the top 10 albums of 2008 by the way.

Seitz said...

I'll probably get to it this week, but it won't be as labor intensive as last year's list.