The UCLA freshmen continue to rise. LDII has proven to be a fantastic addition to the team whose impact is on par with the young stars. The Wear Twins contributions deserve respect. They, and Norman Powell, are role players who have had their moments. Make no mistake though, Anderson, Adams, and Muhammad (and to a lesser extent Parker), are taking over and elevating this team.
Arizona State was a “revenge game.” The Sun Devils took the Bruins to the woodshed in Tempe. The Bruins were without Travis Wear last night, as they were the first time they played ASU. That just made the result a better barometer of where this team is at as the season winds down. Where this team seems to be is finally settling into its identity, and that identity is a rookie led team.
The big difference makers last night were Kyle Anderson’s offensive production, the Bruins’ rebounding and the Bruins’ defense in the second half. Parker, D. Wear, LD II and Norman Powell combined for seventeen points the first time these two teams played. Last night those four players chipped in fifteen points. Adams and Muhammad produced thirty-seven the first game, and forty-three last night. That’s six more points between them which is very nice, but not what tipped the scales. What put the Bruins over the top was the production of Kyle Anderson.
In Tempe, Anderson produced just six points on 3-for-12 shooting. Last night Anderson dropped a season high 21 points on 6-for-14 shooting. (Combined JA, KA and SM combined for 64 points!) That’s not all. Many may not remember, but Anderson also fouled out of that first game, and had just eight rebounds. Last night, Anderson kept himself on the floor with just one foul, pulled down 15 rebounds and blocked four shots. Kyle Anderson played like an MVP on Wednesday.
The rebounding overall was better. In the first game, ASU out-rebounded UCLA by 20…TWENTY. Last night, while the Bruins were still out-rebounded by ASU, the margin was only four, 44-40. This was truly a team effort to be sure, but kudos to Anderson (15 boards, seven more than the first meeting) and Muhammad (seven boards, five more than the first meeting) for improving their numbers in the second contest.
The Bruins defense in the first half left something to be desired. They gave up 41 points while allowing ASU to shoot 53.3 percent on 16-for-30 shooting. Anderson’s defense on Gilling was awful as the ASU forward went 4-for-6 from long range with Kyle guarding him for the most part. In the second half, Gilling launched 10 threes but only connected on two thanks to tighter defense. In fact, the entire ASU team was cooled off dramatically in the second half and overtime as they shot a mere 30.95 percent on 13-for-42. The Bruins challenged almost every shot, caused the Sun Devils to hurry, make bad decisions and almost completely disrupted ASU’s offensive flow. Every Bruin contributed as UCLA worked their way past Arizona State.
A couple observations: ASU is a very physical team, but Bachynski’s play borders on dirty. ASU’s center got in a lot of cheap, unnecessary shots during the game. That, along with Bachynski getting away with several pretty obvious uncalled over the backs, signaled that the referees were going to let the players play. The Bruins adjusted and won… Muhammad missed a couple front ends of one-and-ones, one of which may well have facilitated the game going into overtime. Need to tighten that up… LDII seems to be more turnover prone now that he’s looking to score more. He had five turnovers versus ‘SC and seven versus ASU. Let’s hope he gets a handle on that… The Bruins face the most certainly embarrassed and probably desperate Arizona Wildcats this Saturday. Arizona lost badly to ‘SC, 89-78. The Wildcats come in with a chip on their shoulder having already been beaten by UCLA in Tucson. If they lose to UCLA this weekend they could find themselves struggling to finish in the top four in the conference. Expect a brutal battle this weekend. It sez here, if Travis Wear is back, the Bruins will be up for the challenge.