Sunday, January 24, 2010
Fresh start for UCLA Bball
Last week's blowout loss to usc was definitely the low point of this horrendous season. Truth is, it was exactly the kind of team that we would have big time trouble with. Athleticism. In a way, I felt bad for sc's team since they looked like they were perhaps good enough to make a run at the Pac-10 now that we know that the conference is terrible. Looking at the standings, we've actually beat the top 2 teams, ASU and Cal already somehow, and our two latest victims, UW and WSU are good teams with 14 and 12 win seasons, respectively.
Fortunately, I didn't get a chance to go to the sc debacle but I was able to witness both the UW thriller and the solid defensive effort vs WSU.
The best thing about this victory was the fact that our senior scorers Dragovic and Roll did not have especially good games but we were still in position to win. Now, how Keefe manages to play 17 minutes and not score a point or even grab a single rebound is simply astounding for a 5th year senior. But the emergence of his freshmen counterpart, Reeves Nelson (a solid game with 16 points, 6 boards) and Tyler Honeycutt (10 points,8 boards,4 assists) has Bruin nation excited for the future. Paired with Malcolm Lee, this trio forms the core of our championship run next season. We have to think of this season as a prolonged preseason for next year...
Mustafa Abdul-Hamid was the target of my wrath early on in the season when Jerime Anderson was hurt as he just seemed completely incapable of fitting in on a Div 1 basketball court. And yes, he was responsible for not stopping UW's Overton from driving the length of the court for that easy layup - a layup that I thought Nelson could've blocked had he not hesitated. But Roll made an excellent decision not to inbound the ball to Malcolm who was right in from of him and instead passed it to Mustafa at half court.
Now I knew Mustafa could shoot (which had partially eased my seething anger at him already), but I didn't know he was so clutch (Concordia winner aside). He quickly dribbled to the top of the key, pump faked Overton into the air and calmly sank a long jumper. It looked good the whole way. Its been awhile since I've seen Pauley explode like that.
I only wish that the students didn't try to rush the court. We're freakin UCLA. We just went to the final four a couple years ago. Contain yourselves. But I realize that its been a painful season and Bruin fans are just looking for something to be excited about.
I feel like we've really turned a corner this game. For the 2nd game in a row, our 2-3 zone has really made it difficult for other teams to score. With all the injuries we had at the beginning of the season, we probably should've been playing at the level we are know about 10 games ago. But at least we've showed massive improvement on the defensive end. With Dragovic on the floor, we can only do so much, but I take comfort in the fact that he'll be gone in another month and with him, hopefully mediocrity.
Our 2-3 zone forced WSU to take 28 3-pointers on Saturday. They only made 10. In comparison, we only took 13 and we made half (6). Not bad. We played a very balanced game where every starter gave an solid effort. I know Keefe started but I consider Nelson the true starter. While Keefe managed 3 blocks, 2 rebounds to go along with 0 points, an improvement over his 0-0 from last game, Nelson scored a team high 19 points. I'm truly excited about Nelson. At 6'7 or 6'8, he is probably not going to leave for the NBA early. We will have this kind of production and energy for all 4 years. I've already forgotten about Gordon.
Tyler Honeycutt actually seems to be our team's best passer. He sees the court extremely well and can make entry passes down low with ease. Now that he's gotten his legs back, we see that he can be a great rebounder and defender. His jump shot looks good as well (in comparison with Malcolm's especially). Hopefully he'll put on some muscle this offseason and be ready for a big role next year. With Honeycutt and Nelson in there, we've become a much better interior defensive team.
We've got the Oregon schools next. Though they currently reside in the Pac-10 basement, we know that it doesn't mean anything. Experts are projecting that the Pac-10 could only have 1, maybe 2 teams in the tourney this year. Amazing.