This UCLA team has become maddening.
While the Bruins came out of Brooklyn, NY, 1-1, and with a win against Georgia, it’s not as if this was was something these Bruins can hang their hat on. UCLA struggled for most of the game and, in fact, trailed for over half of it. After battling back from a double-digit deficit to a 1-3 Georgia squad, the Bruins clinged to a perennial-four-point margin and hung on with a win.
And it was a terrible performance in almost all aspects. Sure, this team won, but beating what has proven to be one of the worst college hoops squads in the nation in these Bulldogs doesn’t a good performance make.
Offensively, this team looked hopeless. While Shabazz Muhammad battled back from a rough start — forcing shot after shot after shot — and the freshman settled and scored 20 points off of 6-for-12 shooting, the rest of the squad couldn’t figure out how to attack Georgia’s zone. For the second straight night, one of the biggest cop-out defenses the game has to offer entirely suffocated a UCLA offense that features countless weapons on that side of the ball.
For a second straight night, UCLA passed around the perimeter needlessly, seemingly in reluctance to attack a zone with dribble-penetration (the most obvious way to attack it). They did, sparingly, and when they broke down the zone with the dribble, the UCLA offense was in position to score at will from the inside or off an open three-pointer.
Of course, it was sparing, and for some reason, Kyle Anderson and Larry Drew II couldn’t seem to understand that forcing the zone to collapse by attacking the gaps opens up the floor more than the defense wants.
The end result? A 41 percent clip from the floor as a team, collectively, while jacking up 11 threes and knocking in only a pair.
Defensively, this team wasn’t horrible. To start, it was, but this squad managed to see Ben Howland overcome his stubbornness and employ a zone defense of its own in the second half.
A good adjustment, too, because this UCLA team had issues with letting the guards past the perimeter defenders and the bigs were normally burned on the inside. Meanwhile, the UGA bigs had no trouble getting in advantageous position inside over a defensive interior that featured Kyle Anderson at the 4 and Travis Wear at the pivot, a porous pairing to be sure.
That zone that UCLA ran to finish the game, though? That was gorgeous and it ultimately allowed the Bruins to walk away from the Legends Classic 1-1. These Bruins held Georgia to a 37 percent clip and though they were thoroughly out-hustled in the first half, the energy came back, as the zone was employed — likely a result of defenders getting rest playing the zone as opposed to the draining, aggressive man defense Howland employs.
Overall, this wasn’t one of those wins you should be proud of. UCLA fans across Bruins Twitter have begun to voice their concerns, citing this Legends Classic tournament — what is largely now a failure — as a reason.
So we ask you, dear reader: How happy are you with Ben Howland?