UCLA walked into Tempe and laid an egg today. This isn’t Rocket Science. Jacking up jumpers on the road against a 15-4 team ain’t gonna cut it. Here’s the sad story: UCLA shot 30 jumpers in the first half and 31 in the second. 61 jumpers total. They made 16. That’s a little over 26%. Meanwhile, they were 9-11 on lay-ups/dunks. Jacking up jumpers doomed us against Oregon. Not jacking up jumpers and attacking the basket lifted us to victory in Tucson. Jacking up jumpers in Tempe doomed us again.
By contrast, ASU shot 25 jumpers in the first half and 20 in the second. They shot 45 jumpers and made 12, total. Hey guess what? That comes to just a bit over 26%. Sound familiar? That’s right: almost the exact same percentage rate at which we made jumpers. The difference in the game was we continued jacking up jumpers in the second half and ASU didn’t. We were 6-31 on jumpers in the second half. That’s 19.4% for those of you playing at home.
ASU was 4-20 on jumpers in the second half. That’s 25%, which is atrocious. They were just smart enough not to shoot jumpers 11 more times! Incidentally, the Sun Devils were 18-19 on lay-ups/dunks for the game. Let that sink in. They attacked the rim and got 18 more points on the interior. What did we lose by? Oh yeah, 18 points. They were extremely effective on the inside because we played matador defense. Want to know how you can tell? ASU didn’t shoot a single free throw in the first half.
Also, a curious thing happens when you jack up jumpers, aside from a lower shooting percentage, you get out-rebounded. Jacking up jumpers makes it harder to box out effectively. Long rebounds are often the result. It is amazing how many people don’t make this association, but the higher percentage shots your team takes the more likely they’ll have good or respectable rebound numbers. ASU took more high percentage shots and had over double the offensive rebounds we did and 20 more rebounds over all.
The bottom line? Bruins mailed this one in. They came in short Travis Wear, which surely had to have some impact, They came in believing if they could beat Arizona at Arizona, a team that beat Arizona State at Arizona State, they could pretty easily ASU. They came in believing ASU couldn’t be very good if they had to go to overtime at home to beat $UC. They came in over confident and their shot selection, impatience on offense and less than inspired effort on defense reflected that.
There is no doubt these Bruins are talented. While they lack that big post presence, (Tony Parker played 13 minutes and contributed 0 points, 1 rebound, 1 turnover and 2 personal fouls. Not trying to pick on him, but…ugh!) but they make up for it when they’re focused with increasingly better defense and hustle. The truth is what they lack is mental toughness; the mentality to bring it every night. They lack the simple recognition that they will seldom jump shoot their way to success in the Pac-12. Until they learn to bring a bunker mentality to every game, regardless of circumstances, they will remain exciting, but inconsistent.
This is the last lesson for them this season, but it’s vital. Coach Howland owns guaranteeing it sinks in.
It will be the difference between finishing the regular season with a ten game winning streak, winning the Pac-12 tournament (PTT) and marching deep into the NCAA Tourney, or going 7-3 the rest of the regular season, falling short of the PTT Championship and flaming out in the second round of then Big Dance. Either could happen. It sez here the odds are starting to look against these Bruins putting it all together.