Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Last year, while the players were different SC had UNC on the ropes but let it get away. This season against Kansas they played them tough but seal the deal. On a windy night in NYC I watched this team almost take down Memphis so they have the talent to win these game but more often than not there were still times that this team showed their youth and immaturity. I wouldn't go as far to say that tonight's win against ucla AT Pauley erases all that but these kids are finally getting it and coming together.
I realize that CBS said O.J. Mayo was the player of the game but I simply disagree, it was Davon Jefferson that stood out and made the plays that needed to be made. They found a way to counter Kevin Love but not neutralize him as he recorded his 9th double-double of the season.
There were times throughout this game when ucla's defense was all that is advertised. The collapsed the double-team that caused 19 turnovers, they rooted out the ball to get 15 steals. But while their defense was stifling at times they looked like they were standing in place while SC drove the lane. On the other hand SC has a pretty good defense as well leading the Pac-10 in field goal defense holding ucla to a paltry 33% while blocking 4 shots and getting 5 steals.
I had some fun in call Ben Howland "No Offense" but tonight that was exactly what we saw. It wasn't just 33% shooting but it was how they got to 33%. Aboya, Mbah a Moute and Keefe trying to hit from the perimeter is not where they are effective. They went for a combined 3-for14 for a whopping 7 points. I expected Love to get his points as he is always underneath getting the second chance shots and he has shown a nice touch from the 3-point line. Shipp came to play and he did his part but Collison had an average game only scoring 11 points. ucla had a tough time handling the Triangle-and-2 defense in the first half but they looked even more out of it when Coach Floyd went into man-to-man, for once SC won the the halftime adjustment battle.
For SC, to me it's more about how they played than how many points they scored. I said this earlier today:
SC needs to do a few things in order to make this game respectable:
- 1-Play some solid defense
- 2-Control the boards as best they can
- 3-Make quality shots
They did everything on that list including making quality shots. The rebounding was the most impressive with Davon getting 9 boards, Taj getting 8 boards and Hackett and Lewis each getting 5. With those numbers it shouldn't surprise us that ucla shot only 33%. SC was not intimidated by either ucla or playing at Pauley. The fans didn't seem as raucous as we have seen in the past and SC showed that they could hang with ucla by driving the lane and providing their own stifling defense so that may have had some effect. Jefferson was a beast out there as he looked to be involved in almost every play. As I mentioned earlier, Taj had a great night as well with not only 8 rebounds but also 2 steals and 2 blocked shots. He covered Love adequately but it will always be difficult to dominate him.
Plain and simple ucla looked past USC. They saw how they struggled in their early non-conference play and in their first 3 games against Pac-10 opponents. I don't want to hear about the refs not making calls in their house. I don't want to hear not being focused. They looked past us and it showed in their level of play. I could care less if this is a wake up call for them or a dose of humility, it is what it is a sloppy loss by a top team who thought they could walk all over what they perceived to be a lesser opponent. We may not be as good as ucla on the grander scale but tonight we were better and tonight is all that matters at this moment.
The bruins have all the weapons they need to beat almost any team at will but they aren't perfect, they just simply over looked USC tonight.