"This game is kind of scary. A battered, belittled, and bad Ucla team coming into Berkeley is a recipe for a nightmare."
~The prophet we know as SoCal Oski.
I was afraid of this type of game from the start. UCLA just got romped by Arizona at home; Cal just stomped over the Cardinal. Bruins fans were trashing their 'terrible' basketball team; Cal fans were thinking about stomping all over our home schedule. The Bruins made adjustments to their starting lineup to take advantage of size and strength; the Bears lost their sixth man who brought the defense and the energy when we needed it in the middle. UCLA is a team that still excels at perimeter defense; Cal is a team that depends on its perimeter offense.
What ended up happening? UCLA played like they had to win, Cal played like they had already won. Result? Bruins 76, Bears 75. Oh, the pain never ends.
There was a lot of tough luck for the Bears, missing a lot of shots they'd normally make (Randle seemed to be shooting a bigger basketball than everyone else). But to put it simply, if Cal brings their A-game, they probably do their thing, and don't have to worry about the refs and the free throws and the unlucky bounces and Roll and Drago sticking their fingers up like they're King Shit (it would not surprise me at all if the Bruins get mauled at Maples--they are practically bipolar this year).
Cal's defensive effort wasn't there tonight, at least on the perimeter. The Bears allotted the Bruins too many wide open 3s, got plenty of chances to attack the basket, and Cal was caught reaching too many times when they were a step slow defending. If UCLA wasn't such a putrid foul shooting team, they might've won outright in regulation, but Reeves Nelson's arms of stone kept Cal hanging around. Cal took EIGHTEEN MORE SHOTS and still lost, thanks to the bad close-outs from beyond the arc and all the free throws they gave up due to late rotations.
Interestingly enough, the Bears seemed pretty good at breaking down the zone. But for some reason they didn't attack the basket when they got there--the Bears were shooting so well from two that they should've abandoned the three point shot altogether and just attacked inside. Only Theo and Amoke seemed willing to go into the lane and absorb contact--Theo especially, who put up Randle-like numbers at the line. Randle and Christopher seemed more willing to pull back and shoot (Randle seemed to be bothered especially by the perimeter defense, and his aggressiveness was muted). Boykin seemed like an afterthought in the offense until the last shot.
Ultimately, it's one game, but it really deals a blow to the Bears as serious Pac-10 title contenders, and coupled with more embarrassing results around the Pac, could keep on narrowing the number of Pac-10 bids for the Big Dance. Cal really needed to hold serve with the worst of the conference--instead they turned in an Oregon State redux. Losses like this put them closer to oblivion.
Again though, one game. Let's see how the Bears respond against USC (with no Jorge) before hitting panic.
More thoughts (well, more like rants) after the jump.
- You can't let Michael Roll hit 8 of 13 and pile up an offensive rating of 146. Even if Jorge isn't there, Christopher (or whoever was on him) should be doing better getting on him, especially from three-point land.
- You can't let Ivan Drago knock down three wide open triples to keep the Bruins in shooting range in the second half. Even if he's proclaiming he'll break you, stick a hand in his face. Or punch him in the face.
- You can't keep on getting burned by the same pick-and-pop play where the big man sets the screen runs out and nails the three in stride. Where's the big to rotate out onto the three point shooter?
- You can't force eight more turnovers and do absolutely NOTHING with them. UCLA kept on hemhorraging the ball, and Cal turned them into halfcourt clanged jumpers. Attack the goddamn basket, run fastbreak, stop pulling the ball back and slowing the pace to UCLA's glacial speed. The Bears had only 74 possessions in 45 minutes of play versus the Bruins as opposed to 70 possessions in 40 minutes against the Furd, and Cal was running clock much of the second half in that one. Move faster Bears!
- The team missed Jorge a lot (think Roll goes 8 for 13 with Gutierrez shackled all over him?) but I feel this is a game where they missed Harper Kamp even more. Amoke was great offensively, but was just too undersized to deal with anyone on the Bruins frontline, made silly touch fouls, and ended up fouling out in crunch-time. Kamp's defense could have been sorely used in the paint. In addition, UCLA was able to pound the glass in the second half and grab some crucial boards (although Cal did pretty well themselves crashing the glass). MSF and Max really had no impact on the game. Sadness.
- Brings us back to depth. Depth cost us when we lost Theo in New York, depth cost us against the #1 team in the country when we put up maximum effort for 30-32 minutes before gassing out, and it cost us tonight. Cal was a five man team tonight, and they didn't look terribly comfortable in their shoes tonight.
- Randle got to the line zero times for the second time this season. He struggled similarly against Syracuse and Ohio State. Uh, let's just attack the rack more Jerome, even if they're calling you tight.
- While we might not have beaten the Bruins at home, I have every belief that this team will rebound and play with a vengeance in Pauley in a month. A split seems disappointing coming into January; now it seems like a necessity. The rematch in February will tell us a lot about the direction of this team.