CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
Today, 9 p.m.
Maybe third time’s the charm for UCLA.
The 4-2 Bruins will be playing their third team from California tonight, the 6-1 Cal State Northridge Matadors. But No. 24 UCLA has been nowhere near a golden state of mind in its previous two matchups against California teams.
It took until overtime for the Bruins to put down the UC Irvine Anteaters on Nov. 13. And against Cal Poly, UCLA failed to get its act together and fell 70-68 after giving up an 18-point second-half lead.
UCLA will look to improve its play against yet another mid-major opponent, Cal State Northridge.
Issues that were present at the Progressive Legends Classic became glaringly obvious at Pauley Pavilion Sunday night against Cal Poly.
Sophomore guard Norman Powell, who committed the game-deciding foul, pointed out UCLA’s slow starts as a key issue thus far.
“We need to come out with intensity and play basketball and not let teams hang around,” Powell said. “We have to come out and play hard the whole game, not just the second half ““ and play our game from start to finish.
“It’s not a switch, we can’t turn it on and off when we want to play good, when we want to just cruise.”
In addition to their monumental collapse in the second half, the Bruins were only able to establish a two-point lead against the Mustangs in the first 20 minutes of play.
Even more troublesome for UCLA than being able to establish an early lead was its inability to grab defensive rebounds and defend in key situations down the stretch.
On Sunday night, the Bruins tied the Mustangs in rebounding with 35. UCLA has three players who are 6 feet 10 inches and get regular playing time, while Cal Poly has no one with that length.
Freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad, who led the team in rebounds against Cal Poly, attributes his success to effort, and he’s been just as adamant in his efforts to will his teammates to rebound.
“I was telling the big guys they should be getting more rebounds than me. I’m going to go out there and grab every rebound I can, and this game I think I can grab more than 10 or 11 ““ I’m capable of doing that so that’s what I’m going to do,” Muhammad said on Tuesday.
“It’s effort. If you’re going to go up like I try to go up and get rebounds and be aggressive, then most likely the rebounds will come to you. And if you’re aggressive and working hard on the defensive glass, it’s going to be good karma on you and you’re going to get that ball.”
Coach Ben Howland realized upon reviewing the game that he should have made some defensive adjustments after gaining a sizable lead since his players were not athletic enough to keep up in man-to-man defense down the stretch.
“We were much bigger than they were and I should have zoned in retrospect ““ we should have zoned more,” Howland said.
“We have to do a better job of playing harder defensively rather than point to our lateral quickness ““ it’s just playing harder, it’s just being in the stance, it’s just doing tough things.”
Freshman forward Kyle Anderson echoes Howland’s sentiment that a zone could be beneficial moving forward.
“I feel like it’ll help the team a lot because we have such great length,” Anderson said. “Maybe zone can force the offense into bad shots and form great transition going the other way.”