You’ll have to excuse me for this, because I write this minutes after UCLA’s disappointing loss to an unranked Georgetown team to squash our hopes of legitimizing this season by beating Indiana.
But good lord, this team looked awful. Against, again, an unranked Georgtown team that let Duquesne and Liberty hang around for far too long.
The first, most glaring issue? UCLA’s inability to play against a zone defense. For the majority of the game, these Hoyas employed a sound zone defense against a UCLA team that features all the playmakers you could possibly ask for.
And for 90 percent of the shot clock on any given possession saw UCLA pass around the perimeter and jack up a tough, contested, long-range shot.
Against any zone defense, the offensive counter is to let your point guard — or point forward, if you know what we mean — get into the lane and break the defense from the interior; after that, the zone has to collapse and that leaves perimeter players open to slash or shoot as they choose. In essence, the counter to the zone is to attack the basket constantly and force the zone to crumble.
Instead, these Bruins passed ’til there was no more passing to be done. Kyle Anderson never took initiative to drive it inside, nor did Larry Drew II. Instead, the only player seemingly willing to drive to the basket has been UCLA’s most aggressive player all season, Jordan Adams.
And Adams? He was brilliant, as usual. Another 20-point performance (earning 22 on the night) and a perfect night from the charity stripe (although he only went twice). Through four games, it’s apparent that Adams is this team’s most consistent presence, and at some point this season, Adams will have to come off the bench and earn some time at the 2-guard in the starting line-up.
Shabazz Muhammad also debuted, and it was lackluster. Although his first shot of the night was a tough, contested, pull-up jumpshot in transition, he was cold for the majority of the evening, starting the game 3-for-8 before knocking in two, late (and rather meaningless) jumpers after UCLA was down by double digits with less than two minutes to go.
Meanwhile, these Georgetown Hoyas tore up this UCLA defense, attacking the basket relentlessly, making the Wear Twins look entirely helpless while the slashers came methodically and routinely. To add to it, the Hoyas also shot a ridiculous 50 percent from downtown off of 14 shots, with three-point defense becoming the most glaring problem with this UCLA team (due to lazy rotations to the outside).
Georgetown led for most of the second half and never relinquished the lead. Despite the Bruins cutting it to four, the Hoyas slashed their way into the paint to extend the lead as soon as it got that close. Eventually, a few three-pointers damned the Bruins and that No. 13 ranking looks a tad undeserved at this point in the season.
UCLA will need to get it together — with head coach Ben Howland needing to teach his players how to attack a zone defense — and blow out a lowly, 1-3 Georgia team.
If not? This season may be declared a disaster sooner than anyone wants.