In all honesty it shouldn't come as a surprise that UCLA struggled with an in-state non-conference opponent, the very teams that most in the fan base expect the Bruins to simply roll over regardless of their level of interest. But in recent seasons it's become more of an issue as the Bruins haven't been talented enough to simply flip the switch, and there was another hard lesson to learn in the LA Sports Arena. The preseason pick to win the Pac-12 shot 40.7% from the field and made just two of fifteen from beyond the arc in a 69-58 loss to Loyola Marymount.
Ashley Hamilton scored 23 points and Anthony Ireland added 21 to lead the way for Max Good's squad, who shot 10-for-15 from deep on the night. The Lions knew what shots they wanted and they did a good job of finding them. The same can't be said of the Bruins, who by and large ignored their advantage in the paint. Reeves Nelson, a Preseason All-Pac 12 selection, somehow took just four shots in the first half. He would finish with 13 points, a number matched by David Wear and Travis Wear scored 11. Point guard Lazeric Jones shot 1-for-11 from the field, and in spite of the cold shooting the senior continued to hunt his shot on the perimeter.
"It's not what any of us expected," said David Wear. "We've got all the tools and talent on offense. We just got to be more patient."
While their defensive issues didn't help UCLA's unwillingness to work for quality shots inside ultimately cost them the game, and LMU provides a harsh lesson that should get the Bruins' attention. But this is a group that due to its potential should have been at full attention from the start. Joshua Smith played just 16 minutes and scored five points, and it's definitely debatable if he's in good enough shape to make a difference. Jerime Anderson is out due to a suspension but this is about more than simply waiting for him to get back. It's time for all involved to start making better decisions and displaying a better basketball IQ. UCLA is better than this.
Other Notable Happenings
1. Duke survives Belmont's challenge to move Mike Krzyzewski one win closer to the all-time record.
Had you done nothing other than watch the commercials leading up to Duke's game against Belmont, you would have thought that ESPNU were televising a coronation of sorts on Friday night. However Belmont, who won 30 games last season and is expected by many to duplicate that feat this year, wasn't in the mood for any kind of celebration as Coach K approaches Bob Knight's all-time wins record. In spite of a slow start from beyond the arc the Bruins challenged Duke, ultimately falling 77-76 with the Blue Devils surviving thanks in large part to Tyler Thornton, Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee. Plumlee provided 13 points, 14 rebounds and six assists while Thornton scored 10 points off the bench, and Curry scored 16 points to lead the way.
"I'm really proud of our guys, especially once the game pressure was on us," said Krzyzewski, who's now up to 901 wins. "We grew up a lot tonight. You can't practice situations like that. Good teams put you in those situations, and Belmont's a really good basketball team. But I thought overall we played really well."
Belmont provided their usual balanced effort, with Kerron Johnson leading five players in double figures with 15 points. And the efforts of Drew Hanlen and J.J. Mann, who scored 12 points apiece at the point , shouldn't be overlooked. Belmont didn't make a three-pointer in the first half (0-for-7) but they remained in the game by making 12 of 19 from two-point range and the Bruins out-rebounded the Blue Devils on the night 35-34. During the second half some of the Duke guards, especially freshman Austin Rivers, seemed to be rushed in what they were doing. That played into Belmont's hands, but a big three from Andre Dawkins late gave Duke the separation they needed. This will be a contest that both teams can look back on and take valuable lessons from, ones that will allow both teams to grow.
2. North Carolina takes care of Michigan State despite being out-rebounded.
The Carrier Classic, played on the USS Carl Vinson, took some time to get used to for both Michigan State and North Carolina. They were playing in an unfamiliar environment in front of the likes of the President and the First Lady along with Magic Johnson, James Worthy and the service men and women honored on Veteran's Day. But it was Tom Izzo's team that struck the first blow, controlling the glass early to push ahead of the preseason favorites to win the national title. Draymond Green (13 points, 18 rebounds) and company were more physical than the Tar Heels and it showed.
But as the game wore on North Carolina did a better job of playing the game at their tempo, ultimately pulling away and winning 67-55. Harrison Barnes scored 17 points and John Henson added 10 points, nine blocks and seven rebounds as his wingspan proved to be too much for the Spartan frontcourt. Michigan State shot just 30.6% from the field, and their 10% shooting from beyond the arc essentially negated a 49-34 edge on the boards. If there's one thing that the UNC coaching staff will likely point to in practice it will be the 24 offensive rebounds allowed. Shooting changes due to playing outside, but to allow that many offensive boards will be something that Roy Williams and his staff look to fix immediately.
3. Tray Woodall shows how his improved game in Pitt's blowout victory.
With Brad Wanamaker moving on, redshirt junior point guard Tray Woodall was the man Pittsburgh expected to step up his play in 2011-12. And if Woodall's play in the Panthers' 89-56 win over Albany is any indication he's well on his way to doing so. Woodall scored 25 points (9-13 FG) while also accounting for ten assists and six rebounds on the night, with the points establishing a new career-high. The Great Danes focused much of their attention on slowing down Ashton Gibbs, who added 21 points, but as the game wore on resistance proved futile. If Woodall and Gibbs can combine for this kind of play on the perimeter, the Panthers' depth will make them a very tough team to deal with in the Big East.
"We talked to Tray about his rebounding and he had six rebounds," said head coach Jamie Dixon. "That was really the most encouraging thing. He's practiced the last two days very well and I talked to him today about it. He just played really patiently and 13 shots, all good shots, all wide-open looks and just let things come to him."
4. Indiana takes care of business in impressive fashion.
Tom Crean's Indiana Hoosiers have been going through the process of rebounding after the Kelvin Sampson era, and it's taken time as the young Hoosiers learn how to win. Recent successes on the recruiting trail have added energy to the storied program, but it's also clear that the fans want to see an increase in wins as well. This group took the first step in that direction on Friday night in a 96-66 blowout of Stony Brook, a game better to be evaluated on how the Hoosiers played as opposed to the margin of victory. Freshman Cody Zeller scored 16 points and added 10 rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists in his regular season debut, and sophomore Victor Oladipo scored 16 points as well. The Hoosiers shot 65.4% from the field on the night and assisted on 21 of their 34 made baskets, executing their offense well while limiting the Seawolves to 41.5% shooting and forcing 16 turnovers. Indiana's performance displayed a team that beginning to not only recognize what's being taught but also apply those lessons. There's a long way to go but Indiana has taken the first step in 2011-12.
1. UConn's Jeremy Lamb (30 points) looked more than ready for the start of the season, but the same can't be said for all of his teammates. Outside of Tyler Olander the Husky big men didn't perform as well as expected, but it didn't matter much as they beat Columbia 70-57.
2. It's good to see Purdue's Robbie Hummel back on the floor. The fifth-year senior put up 21 points in the Boilermakers' 96-34 whipping of Northern Illinois. The Boilers limited NIU to 25% shooting from the field and forced 28 turnovers in the win.
3. George Mason opened the Paul Hewitt era with a thriller, outlasting Rhode Island 92-90 in overtime in Fairfax. Ryan Pearson led four Patriots in double figures with 28 points (and 12 rebounds), and URI's Jamal Wilson led all scorers with 38. Wilson entered the game with a career average of 2.7 points per game.
4. John Jenkins = Shan Foster 2.0? That's a definite possibility given the ability of both to kill opponents from beyond the arc while not scoring a whole lot inside of it. Jenkins attempted 16 three-pointers (making seven) while making just one shot inside of the arc in scoring 24 points in Vanderbilt's 74-64 win over Oregon. Jeffery Taylor added 21 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four assists.
5. Brockeith Pane led Utah State to a 69-64 win over in-state rival BYU with 21 points and and five assists, but he also turned the ball over six times. But the bigger issue in this contest was BYU's guard play. Brock Zylstra struggled to the tune of two points (1-4 FG) and five turnovers, and as a team the Cougars turned the ball over 20 times. Navigating life after Jimmer Fredette and Jackson Emery will be a work in progress to say the least.
Five Notable Performers
1. G Jamal Wilson (Rhode Island)
38 points (13-22 FG), seven rebounds and two assists in the Rams' 92-90 overtime loss at George Mason. Career average before this game: 2.7 ppg.
2. G Trae Golden (Tennessee)
29 points, nine assists and six rebounds in the Volunteers' 92-63 win over UNC Greensboro. Golden averaged just 2.9 points per game last season.
3.G Jeremy Lamb (Connecticut)
30 points (11-17 FG), four steals, three rebounds and two assists in the Huskies' 70-57 win over Columbia.
4. G/F Nathaniel Lester (Hofstra)
33 points (9-15 FG, 12-14 FT), five rebounds and two steals in Hofstra's 89-71 win over Long Island. Lester did not play last season due to injury (medical redshirt).
5. F Anthony Davis (Kentucky)
23 points (10-13 FG), 10 rebounds and five blocks in the Wildcats' 108-58 beating of Marist.