For at least one day, UCLA’s basketball program was successful in adding by subtraction as they began the post-Reeves Nelson era by beating the Penn Quakers, 77-74, before 6,332 at the Honda Center on December 10.
The Bruins used a zone defense, which coach Ben Howland doesn’t usually employ as he prefers man-to-man, to hold Penn to 40% shooting in the second half and 45% for the game even though Tyler Bernadini, a local out of Carlsbad, scored a game-high (and career-high) 29 points for the Ivy Leaguers in his homecoming.
“Zone is not preferred,” said Howland after the game, “but it’s what is fitting for our team right now…We’re going to need to use it and be a team that plays both man and zone.”
UCLA was more balanced in their scoring as they had a solid effort, led by Lazeric Jones’ 21 points, making 7 out of his 10 shots including three of three from behind the three-point arc. The Wear Twins, David and Travis, picked up the slack left by Nelson’s presence quite nicely in combining for 23 points and 15 rebounds, with David achieving his first double-double in grabbing a game-high 12 rebounds to go with his 11 points.
The fact that the Bruins made 8 of 15 shots from behind the arc helped their front line and kept Penn from collapsing on them, which greatly benefitted center Joshua Smith as though his foul troubles continued – he committed four – and he only played 17 minutes as his conditioning issues likewise continued, his offense down low was more successful in scoring 12 points and getting six rebounds, four of them of the offensive kind.
So one can say that Smith made an overall improvement against Penn; hopefully he can carry that over and continue to progress in future games.
For the game, the Bruins shot 50%, but their free throw shooting is an issue as they only made 54% from the charity stripe.
“…my teammates came out and stayed focused and got the win,” stated Jones, talking about the recent issues that the team faced this past week.”That shows how mentally tough we are.”
“It was important for us to win a close game,” Howland commented as Penn stayed within the Bruins, coming to within four points with less than three minutes left in the game and having a three point attempt by Bernadini rim out with 29 seconds left and UCLA up by five. “It was a step in the right direction.”
Now standing at 3-5, if the Bruins want to continue making those steps, they need to continue to win and improve on the court.
Here is a link to click to watch highlights of UCLA’s win, courtesy of YouTube and uclabruins.com – highlight clips will be posted following Bruin wins and games where a good effort was made throughout the season, so simply click on the link:
NEXT UP: Eastern Washington Eagles, Sports Arena, Wednesday, December 14, 7:30 p.m.
This mid-major team is currently 5-3 this season and has three players averaging in double figures points-wise, having played Gonzaga and Oregon tough so far.