A big factor in UCLA basketball’s loss to Oregon State had to do with how the offense operated, or more appropriately, failed to operate.
The UCLA basketball team is a very talented team. They are athletic, long, fast, agile, and explosive. The problem is, they can’t seem to put the pieces together well enough to have an effective and consistent offense.
Let us look at this step by step. Let us start with how they first bring the ball up court. Now, unfortunately, they are still running the same type of offense as Steve Alford ran, which is a shot-heavy, uptempo style. The thing about this is that the Bruins do not have consistent shooters on the team.
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Two seasons ago, when UCLA had Lonzo Ball, the Bruins were an excellent shooting team. Shooting early and often (and making those shots) gave UCLA a lot of points per possession, per game and it forced their opponents to try and keep up, which they often could not.
Currently, with UCLA not making a high percentage amount of shots, they are (1) not scoring and (2) essentially giving the ball right back to their opponents (especially since they fail to box out and get rebounds off those missed shots).
UCLA also has the problem of shooting way too early in the shot clock. If they are not making baskets and giving the ball back so quickly, then they waste a possession. Quickly, I might add. To prevent this, UCLA has to try and run longer and more active sets. As the floor general, Jaylen Hands has to direct his team. He has to find a way to take the next step as a leader and get the rest of his team in the game. Running motion and setting up screens and cuts will help this.
But that is also part of the problem. Hands cannot do it alone. He needs his teammates to make smart decisions, not force up contested shots, find what works for them, and go right at their opponents. For example, Kris Wilkes, who has been getting into slumps for stretches at a time, needs to go with what is working for him. Right now, outside shooting is not his strength, but his midrange game is very hard to defend.
UCLA also has to find a way to get the ball into the paint. Moses Brown is too long, tall and athletic to not be utilized under the rim. Interim head coach Murry Bartow has to set up plays in which the ball has to move around the court so they can find the best possible window to get the ball into Brown. At that point, the 7’2 center needs to create space with his body, go over his defenders and take the ball up with authority.
Bartow has been doing a good job of getting his role players in the game, but they also have to make smart decisions. In the last few games, Jules Bernard and David Singleton have been very effective off the bench. They just have to play consistently.
And quite possibly the most important thing is that the Bruins have to take care of the ball. They have to be smart when taking the ball up court or driving the lane, they need to make crisp, clean passes, and they need to avoid turning the ball over. It is fundamental, but it is important to the foundation of this team’s success.
We saw what happens when things do not go UCLA’s way on the offensive end, which is the only way they will pull out wins because the defense is doing them no favors, so they have to better attend to what is going on when they possess the ball. When this happens, so will the wins.