Breakdown: ‘Cats fall on the road to UCLA
The second game of conference play was setup nicely for
the Wildcats because this is not your father’s UCLA Bruins
team. Before the game even started it was marred as star
big man Joshua Smith was inactive for the Bruins thanks to
a concussion suffered in practice on Wednesday. In his
place the sophomore Wear Brothers (Travis and David) were
stationed in the paint for this game.
Early in the game they were the story combining on 18
points and 4 rebounds resulting in leads as large as 9
points. The pace was set in classic Ben Howland fashion,
slow, methodical and not the way the Wildcats would
prefer. Despite not playing their best basketball early,
the storm was weathered leaving the Wildcats right on par
with their normal first half performances and expectations
At the half the Wildcats trailed 37-30.
The Bruins played more dominant than the score suggests,
out-defending the Wildcats sending three defenders back on
every shot to make sure the fastbreak was not option. They
even outplayed the Wildcats in their own element out
playing them in transition.
It was eye-opening, but somewhat expected to see how the
paint was dominated by the Bruins. Coming into the season
the Wildcats were expecting 6-7 Jesse Perry to be the
defensive catalyst in the paint. He has proven to be just
that and Perry (13 points 3 rebounds) has played well all
season, but consistently playing talented big men that he
gives two, three and four inches to catches up to anyone.
With two fouls each, the Wear brothers sat the end of the
first half, but started the second half just were they
left off. In the first few minutes of the first half, the
Wear Brothers scored 4 points and added two rebounds and
two blocks. The Bruins (and the Wear’s) were not the sole
reason the Wildcats struggled taking intelligent shots
against the set defense.
As the second half progressed, the fouls and plays started
to go the Wildcats’ way. David Wear (4), Travis Wear (3),
Brendan Lane (3) and Lazeric Jones (2) were all in foul
trouble while Tyler Lamb went down hard holding his knee.
The Bruins “B Squad” came in and had to hold down the
fort. The bench came in with solid defense, but struggled
on offense letting the Wildcats back in the game.
The young Wildcats did not value their possessions in the
second half and, eventually, Solomon Hill (16 points 11
rebounds) took over. The Bruins were perfectly fine
letting Josiah Turner (9 points 3 assists) and Nick
Johnson (2 points 1-5 FG) fire ill-advised shots until
Hill took control scoring five quick points to trim the
lead to just three points. The poor play of the freshman
backcourt was just too much to overcome and the Wildcats
lost 65-58 to fall to 1-1 in conference play.
This was the type of game that proves the pundits right
about Arizona, UCLA and the Pac-12 as a whole. The 7-7
Bruins knock off the 10-4 Wildcats and do so with their
best player sidelined. (Travis) Wear finished the game
with 20 points 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in the victory.
There were some positives in this game though. Despite
starting slow, the Wildcats once again battled back and
nearly stole this one and it was thanks to more clutch
play by Hill. The junior started 2-8 from the field and
finished strong with a double-double on 5 of 7 shooting.
For this team to take the next step it has to be Hill
playing like this for 20-30 minutes and not just the final
5 minutes against these types of opponents.
On Thursday, Washington lost to Colorado, California lost
to Oregon State and USC lost to Arizona State. Buckle up;
conference play will be as wild and unpredictable as
tonight all season.