Elsewhere around the Pac-12, the UCLA Bruins played against the St. John’s Red Storm in a game that was televised on CBS. It went down to the final seconds, and David Wear’s inability to effectively box out point guard Phil Greene has been the talk of the game. Greene tipped in a missed three-pointer to give the Johnnies a crucial lead that would not be relinquished at home. Steve Lavin’s squad beat his former team; the same team he once took to four Sweet 16s. Now, the blogosphere is ablaze with talk of Ben Howland’s impending doom.
It is far too reactionary to call for Howland’s head at this point, simply because the Bruins problem isn’t exactly a coaching problem. This team lacks experience and leadership, and the university should give Howland another year to get things together. Hopefully for the UCLA Bruins, he is able to bring in top recruit Shabazz Muhammad.
The Bruins were the much better shooting team last night, as they held a 41.4% to 36.9% advantage over the Johnnies yesterday afternoon. The difference in this game was the 28 second-chance points scored by the Johnnies, and the fact that they had four less turnovers and five more points from free throws made them look better as well.
Coming into this season, the general consensus was that center Joshua Smith would develop into a lottery pick- or something of the like. That hasn’t materialized this year, and his 6-7 line flattered him. While he was more than adequate on the offensive side, he had just three rebounds and was a tremendous liability on defense. Lazeric Jones has a 19.2 PER this season, but he was almost non-existent yesterday with a 2-8 performance. Jones provided little value as a rebounder, in a game where the opposition survived on extending the shot clock and capitalizing on second-chances.
Guard Tyler Lamb put forth a Tyshawn Taylor like game for the UCLA Bruins, with 18 points on 7-13 shooting and some nice three-pointers, but he also turned the ball over an astonishing eight times. That doesn’t help in a close game, and he averaged .86 points per possession with the turnovers taken into account.
If one was to ignore the 0-7 line, then Jerime Anderson had a good day with 4 steals generated on the defensive end and 7 assists. He did the little things well, but he hurt his team more than he helped them by coming up empty on all seven shots. He made some extremely poor decisions on the offensive end, and he was the worst offensive player on the court yesterday.
This loss for the UCLA Bruins makes the Pac-12 even worse, because both teams are in similar positions. Both are inexperienced teams who are in the midst of disappointing seasons, but the Johnnies are also 11-16 (4-10 in conference play) and all of their players are freshmen except for one JC transfer. They have been far less efficient this season, surprising given the Bruins struggles, and this win kills some hopes of the bubble teams in the Pac-12 (most notably the Oregon Ducks) of getting into the NCAA tournament. The Ducks are currently listed by Joe Lunardi as one of the “Next Four Teams Out” and have a 30% chance of getting in, because the Pac-12 is projected to have just three projected bids.
The Pac-12 is just that bad, and the UCLA Bruins are also that disappointing and incohesive as a unit. It’s incredible how Oregon actually lost to UCLA at one point this season, but UCLA wasn’t that bad at one point in the year. Since then, both teams have gone in opposite directions- to say the least. This victory for St. John’s strengthens the Big East (as if they needed any more strength) and makes the Pac-12 look that much worse. It isn’t time to fire Howland, Steve Lavin’s friend who helped him find the right doctors to treat him, but it is time to look forward to Kyle Anderson and try to make better overtures to Muhammad. However, the main problem for the Bruins is their lack of leadership, experience, and a severe lack of fundamentals. Watching them attempt to box out the Red Storm was pitiful.
MVP: Sir’Dominic Pointer had some electrifying moments and was the Johnnies only efficient player on the night (5-12, seven rebounds). Moe Harkless deserves a special mention for 12 rebounds (6 offensive) and 6 steals. Those statistics are important, because the Bruins struggled to maintain possession through rebounding and handles. The Johnnies played with much more hustle, and Harkless overcame a 3-14 performance by doing the little things to make life that much harder for UCLA.
Quote to Note: ”I think we play scrappier than they do,” said St. John’s Moe Harkless. “We got a lot of offensive rebounds and I think we just played harder than they did.”
Everything Harkless said is true, and he was the scrappiest of them all.
FanSided Reaction: The always excellent Carlos Sandoval has a great piece on Go Joe Bruin detailing his frustrations with this game, the team on a whole, and reasons for why Ben Howland should be fired.
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Topics: Ben Howland, Big East, Carlos Sandoval, CBS, David Wear, Go Joe Bruin, Jerime Anderson, Joshua Smith, Kyle Anderson, Lazeric Jones, Madison Square Garden, Moe Harkless, Oregon Ducks Basketball, Pac-12 Competition, Phil Greene, Shabazz Muhammad, Sir'Dominic Jones, St. John's Red Storm, Steve Lavin, Tyler Lamb, Tyshawn Taylor, UCLA Bruins