Friday, March 18, 2011

2011 NCAA Tourney, Round 1 UCLA 78 - MSU 76

What a relief!  In the end, all it will say in the record books is that UCLA advanced out of Round 1 (what's that you say? Rd 2 is it?) of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, and Michigan St. didn't.  This game was a microcosm of UCLA basketball this season.  We are capable of beating anyone in the country and also capable of maddeningly inexperienced play, all in the same half.

Apparently this was the 100th tournament game for UCLA, a March Madness landmark to be sure, but it almost became a March moment of another kind, a collapse of Gonzaga-like proportions.  A 23 point lead with 8:20 to go (64-41), we were outscored 35-14 the rest of the way.  Can that be right?

They scored 35 points in 8 minutes and 20 seconds!  That's 7 three pointers, 5 other baskets, and 4 FTs.  How did we do in that time?  1 layup.  12 made FTs.  7 TURNOVERS!  10 missed FTs, including 9 of our last 11!  In the last 2 minutes, Reeves missed 2, Smith missed 2, Lazeric missed 2, Honeycutt missed 2 and Lee missed the last.  That's our entire starting lineup.  Not exactly confidence inspiring stuff going forward.

The good news is that we had dominated them for the first 32 minutes so badly that it was too hard to make up.  Also, for the ref's enlightenment: a dead ball foul with 4.4 seconds left should result in 2 FTs AND the ball.  MSU's Lucas should've never had opportunity to travel.  It would have been a travesty to lose on a buzzer beater 3 there.

Anyway, there's no way our team can dwell on this, especially since Florida just blew somebody out in the 1st round.  Its the tournament, there's no time to get too high or too low.  Howland knows this.  Plus, he knows that a close win will keep us on our toes better than a easy win would have.

Our frontcourt had a great game.  Nelson had 12, Smith finished with 14, and Honeycutt had 16.  Even Lane contributed with 8 points.  However, the MVP goes to the defensive showing by Malcolm (in addition to his 16 points) in shutting down Kalin Lucas.  With 8 minutes to go, Lucas hadn't scored yet.  And we all know its easier to make jumpers when you're down by 23.  Lucas finished the night 4-14.

Also, we ran a lot of plays for Honeycutt and Malcolm moving toward the rim.  They both flourish in that kind of movement where their skill and athleticism gives us the advantage.  When they're not passing down low to Smith and Nelson, that's where they need the ball.

In 2004-05 season, Howland's 2nd year, a very young team also brought UCLA back to the tournament after missing out, but lost in the first round as a #11 seed.  This year, our team has exceeded that already.  Its time to play as if there's nothing to lose.  Don't forget, in 2005-06, our team went straight to the finals, only to lose to Florida.  Lets get a jump on next year, now.

Sat 3/19/11 - no longer gator bait.  Go Bruins.

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