Russell O’Risky continues his “This Ain’t Rocket Science” series by examining UCLA’s loss to USC on Wednesday night.
Let this sink in: Southern Cal 75 – UCLA 71. Sigh. Twenty hours later I think I’m able to give some semblance of an objective assessment. Let’s get the basics out of the way. I read a lot about bad defense and poor rebounding as I stumbled around the Internet this morning. I’ll address those aspects first.
Southern Cal averages 65.7 ppg. We allowed 65 points to them in regulation. Only three teams have held Southern Cal to 65 points or less in regulation in the Pac-12. The Bruins held SC to 27 points in the second half. Yes, SC got some easy baskets. Yes, they grabbed 10 offensive rebounds. But! At the end of the day we held them to their overall season average, and below their Pac-12 average (68.2). So while I saw some less than stellar defense on the part of the Bruins, Anderson and Adams the most egregious offenders, the fact is SC didn’t exactly light it up. In fact, they tried hard to lose the game. SC had 17 turnovers including having the ball stolen by the Bruins 11 times. SC took some awful shots. They got their fair share of second chances. The Bruins defense was not stellar, but their opponent sucked mustering only 65 points.
According to ESPN, SC grabbed 42 rebounds: 10 offensive and 32 defensive. UCLA grabbed eight les: 10 offensive and 24 defensive. As I pointed out in “This Ain’t Rocket Science”, when you jack up a lot of jumpers or low percentage shots your rebounding will suffer. SC had some opportune and sometimes muscled out second chances off the offensive boards. UCLA got some second chance points, too. I think we’ve figured out they’re not going to dominate the boards this season, however, they didn’t lose because of rebounding.
They lost, drum roll please, because of poor shot selection. The Bruins jacked up 27 jumpers in the first half. They made 7. That’s 25.9%. They lost the first half by 8 points. In the second half they shot 18 jumpers and made 7 for 38.9% shooting. They won the second half by 8 points. For the game the Bruins shot 49 jumpers and made 15 for a 30.6% clip. Nice.
So in a game where the Bruins shot 25 free throws to SC’s 8 in regulation, they found a way to lose. In a game where the Bruins made 17 free throws in regulation to SC’s 6, they found a way to lose. In a game where the Bruins had 11 steals to SC’s 3 and only had 7 turnovers to SC’s 17, we found a way to lose. All those stats normally point to a victorious team even with the rebounding edge to the opponent. We lost.
Why? Poor shot selection. Because none of the cable providers in my area carry Pac-12 Network, I had to listen to the game live over the Internet on UCLA Radio. Guess what Mr. “Jumpshot” himself, Tracy Murray, said during the broadcast? IIRC, he said, “I’m a shooter, but when I played even I knew enough to attack the basket when my shots weren’t falling. You take your shots, get a feel, and adjust. They ain’t falling, take it to the rack.”
What I’m trying to figure out at this point is whose fault is it? The obvious answer is Coach Howland. The thing is though is that he’s essentially turned these guys loose as part of the open offense evolution. He’s told the players that if they’re wide open regardless of where the shot clock is, they’ve got a green light. The fact is a lot of the jumpers they took were pretty wide open. They just weren’t falling. So… if your shots aren’t falling you…? In fact, I always told my teams shot selection is like boxing: you throw jabs (high percentage shots) and then throw punches (low percentage shots) as weaknesses show and opportunities appear. It’s a simple concept, and basketball is a simple game. It sez here that this still ain’t rocket science: take it to the rack.
A FEW SIDE NOTES… I’m sorry, but there’s no way I want Shabazz Muhammad taking twice as many shots (18) as Travis Wear (9). In fact, late in a game I’d rather Wear shoot more. Travis Wear took his last shot at 10:33 left in regulation… LDII has no business shooting 11 shots… Norman Powell contributed 0 points on 0 for 3 shooting beyond the arc, and 1 assist on offense in 14 minutes. Lame, I know, but I maintain he was under-utilized against SC. They went small in large segments of the game. Powell should have been out there. Shabazz had been sick. He needed more breaks. Mismanaged playing time in my humble opinion.