Sleepy start damages Bruin offense in first half

Team shoots just 20.8 percent by halftime, putting a damper on whole game against Arizona

New Year’s Day is widely known as “National Hangover Day.”

Forgive the UCLA men’s basketball team if it was a day late.

The offensive efficiency that was present in the Bruins’ win over Arizona State in the Pac-10 opener on Thursday was absent from the start of a thoroughly embarrassing 77-63 loss to Arizona on national television Saturday morning.

Playing an early game at 10 a.m., the Bruins looked the part: sleepy-eyed on defense and in need of a caffeine boost on offense.

The lack of offensive rhythm in the first half on Saturday doomed the Bruins for the rest of the game as the team shot just 20.8 percent (5-of-24) from the field in that half to find themselves down 35-20 at halftime.

“Our first half offensively really dug a hole deep for us where we’re down 15,” coach Ben Howland said. “Now they come out and hit a 3 to start the second half and are much looser with that kind of lead.”

When asked to explain the vast drop in the offensive production from Thursday, Howland said he felt his players were taking too many rushed shots.

“We were forcing shots instead of being patient, letting shots come to us,” Howland said. “I would say that a number of those shots from the perimeter were really rushed. The defense sped us up, and you’ve got to be able to play slow on offense. You’ve got to be able to slow down and read things, and we were so sped up that it really hurt us to the point where we had some turnovers and we had some bad shots.”

Senior guard Michael Roll was of a different opinion than his coach.

“Whenever we shoot, every time most of us shoot, it’s because we’re open or have enough opening to get it off,” said Roll, who finished with 15 points on 5-of-12 shooting. “Personally, I don’t feel that, but you could say that because we were missing.”

One factor was that Arizona played a man-to-man defense, whereas Arizona State used a zone defense against the Bruins on Thursday. As a result, it was more difficult for the Bruin players to find themselves with open shots.

“They played a zone, and these guys played a man-to-man, trailing every screen,” said sophomore guard Malcolm Lee, who finished with 15 points. “We’re not going to have as much open shots in a man-to-man than zone.”

In addition to the missed jump-shots, there were a number of missed layups by the UCLA players. Howland pointed out two shots early in the game by freshman forward Reeves Nelson where, if Nelson had pump-faked, he would have had a better opportunity to score. Late in the game, fellow freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt missed a wide-open putback, all amounting to a rather forgettable game offensively for the Bruins.

“We had a couple shots inside where we don’t shot-fake and we miss them,” Howland said.

In what’s become an increasingly disturbing trend, senior forward Nikola Dragovic struggled mightily at shooting the ball again, the most recent example a 2-of-7 shooting performance, including 0-of-5 from 3-point territory.

Coming off arguably his best game of the season ““ a 23-point night against Arizona State ““ Dragovic’s offensive inconsistency was all the more blatant.

Following the game, Dragovic could not pinpoint a reason for an offensive game that, when clicking, adds a valuable part to a young UCLA team.

“I don’t know,” said Dragovic, who finished with 11 points. “Maybe it was early, but I don’t know.”

Howland gave a similar analysis of Dragovic’s game to what he gave the rest of the team.

“I thought that he had a couple of rushed shots early in the game,” Howland said. “Everybody’s playing him for the 3, and he’s got to shot-fake and look to bounce it a little bit.”

For now, the Bruins must put Saturday’s lopsided defeat behind them and prepare for a Bay Area road trip that starts on Wednesday.

But before they do, Howland had one more thing to say to sum up Saturday’s game.

“It obviously is a very disappointing loss,” Howland said. “To play this poorly at home after coming off a really important win on Thursday is really disappointing for all of us.”

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on Reddit

Comments are supposed to create a forum for thoughtful, respectful community discussion. Please be nice. View our full comments policy here.