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UCLA throws block party

Posted By Josh Lehmer On Feb 13 2011 @ 9:15 am In UCLA | No Comments

In the wild, beavers build dams in order to block rivers.  Well, if those rivers ever decided they wanted to give those furry woodland creatures a taste of their own medicine, they apparently need to call in Tyler Honeycutt.

Honeycutt had 8 of UCLA’s 16 blocks against the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday, as the Bruins prevailed 69-61.  No matter where OSU seemed to want to shoot from the floor, it seemed like only a matter of time before a hand in a white jersey rose to stuff it.

The block party was necessary to counter to the fact that the Bruins committed 26 turnovers to OSU’s 14.  Oregon State leads the nation in steals (yes, I said nation – not just conference) so this was somewhat expected.  However, many of UCLA’s turnovers were unforced mistakes, which have become somewhat of an issue recently.  (If UCLA wants to make some noise in the postseason, Ben Howland is going to have to run some intense practices enforcing ball security measures, which has been an Achilles’ heel of the team so far despite their winning streak.)

Despite the turnovers, UCLA played 3/4s of a good game: they got up big in the first ten minutes of the game, then faltered for the rest of the first half and allowed OSU to cut a 19 point lead to just 5 at halftime.  The second half, however, was dominated by the Bruins, not only because of their 16-1 advantage in blocks but also by shooting 49% from the field and allowing the Beavers only 32.9%.

The final margin of victory (eight points) is misleadingly low, thanks to a bizarre sequence of events in the final minute after the game had been decided.  With 57 seconds left and a 15 point margin of victory, Howland decided to put in his walk-ons to give them a taste of Pac-10 play.  Apparently Craig Robinson didn’t take too kindly to Howland’s decision to put these “victory cigars” into the game, as the OSU starters utilized a full court press on the poor unsuspecting Bruin walk-ons and stole the ball on back to back possessions for 4 easy points.  After just 15 seconds, the agitated Howland told his starters that they had to take off their icepacks and come back in to finish the game.

Other game notes:

-Honeycutt’s 8 blocks were undoubtedly the main story of the game.  He got some of them while playing at the 4-spot, but a majority of them while playing at the 3: the two post players (usually Joshua Smith and Reeves Nelson) would use a double team to trap the OSU ballcarrier under the basket, then Honeycutt would fly in from the wing to swat the shot when the ballcarrier would attempt to force the ball up into the basket.  Honeycutt came into UCLA being praised for his shooting and scoring ability, but other than his 33-point outing in Lawrence, his scoring has been relatively subpar.  However, that’s been okay for the team so far – the other assets of his game have been improving rapidly and he’s been filling up the stat sheet in every other area.  His passing has been great – he made several excellent passes against the Beavers, including some fantastic looking touch passes to Joshua Smith on the baseline.  His rebounding has taken a step up as well.  His game and statlines have evolved away from the Carmelo Anthony method of playing small forward (e.g “score a lot”) and more into the Andrei Kirilenko/Shawn Marion meld (e.g. “do everything else and fill up every category”).  He had a very “Matrix”-esque line against Oregon State with 9 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and of course the 8 stuffs.

-From looking at the box score, it would seem that the other major black eye on the Bruins besides the turnovers was the fact that they gave up 16 offensive rebounds.  This is definitely too high, but is somewhat mitigated by the fact that many of OSU’s offensive rebounds were the result of a block.

-He might not have made a field goal on Saturday, but Jerime Anderson has appeared to be much more comfortable running the offense in the past few months than he has been during his first 2 and a half years wearing blue and gold.  This is especially key considering that Lazeric Jones is currently playing while hurt.

-Joshua Smith rebounded from his foul-plagued night on Thursday and reasserted his dominance in the paint, scoring 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 blocks.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when the Bruins start to play more talented teams, Smith’s foul situation will perhaps be the single most important factor in whether they can stay competitive.

-UCLA shot 27/37 (73%) from the charity stripe.  This is a huge improvement from earlier in the season, and free throw percentage will be a major key to their continued success, especially from Joshua Smith (7-8 this game) and Reeves Nelson (5-8, which isn’t great but is respectable compared to earlier in the season when it seemed like “Hack-A-Reeves” was a legitimate strategy for opposing teams.)

-Malcolm Lee found himself as the Bruins’ leading scorer for the second straight game.  An excellent scoring weekend for Lee, who shot 16-28 for 44 points against the two Oregon schools and will likely win “Pac-10 Player of the Week” honors.

The Road Ahead: The easy part of UCLA’s schedule is now over, with a tough trip to the Bay Area next weekend looming.  This weekend is key, as a split of Stanford and Cal would still have the Bruins on pace to make the NCAA tournament, and a sweep of the two would likely propel them to their first trip to the AP top 25 rankings and give them near-lock status.  A loss to both, however, would suddenly make the chances of UCLA playing in March a great deal murkier.

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