Sunday, December 4, 2011

UCLA falters in second half, loses to Texas 69-59; Bruins fall to 2-5

UCLA's Lazeric Jones tries to get a shot past Texas' Julien Lewis in the first half Saturday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. Jones scored 21 points. MICHAEL GOULDING, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

UCLA falters in second half, loses to Texas

Published: Dec. 3, 2011 Updated: 10:21 p.m.

LOS ANGELES – UCLA seemed to be well on its way to what appeared would be a much-needed basketball victory against Texas on Saturday when the lights went out at the Sports Arena.

When they came back on after a 13-minute delay, the Bruins' weaknesses became glaring. They broke down on defense, rushed too many shots and let an 11-point lead dissolve into a 69-59 loss in front of 6,117 at UCLA's temporary home.

The power surge was believed to be part of the on-going electricity problems caused by high winds that returned to the L.A. area Saturday. But that only explained part of UCLA's lack of energy on the court.

The Bruins (2-5) started strong and looked as though they might score a victory against a legitimate Division I team. Their only Division I victory this season came in their last game against lowly Pepperdine and Coach Ben Howland called it a "big" win for the Bruins.

Call it their only Division I victory to date.

"I thought we did a good job starting the game," Howland said Saturday. "We played tough and smart for the first 15 minutes. ..."

The Bruins led, 30-19, when the lights went out with 3:39 left in the half. They repeatedly had beaten the Longhorns to the basket and controlled the boards to build the double-digit lead.

"The ref came up to me when the lights came back on and asked me if we wanted to wait the 10 minutes for the TV lights or to go now," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "I said I can barely see the rim from here, but the way we're missing shots, it can't hurt us, so go ahead and play."

Yet, when the lights did come back on, the Longhorns (5-2) switched on their offense. Texas exploited the Bruins' defense for a 7-2 run that got the Longhorns back into the game and into the Bruins' psyches.

UCLA held a slippery 34-28 at halftime, a lead that got away from them quickly in the second half.

The Bruins turned the ball over on their first possession to start the half, and the Longhorns raced down for an uncontested layup by J'Covan Brown. From there, Texas went on an 8-4 run and tied the score at 38 on a Brown 3-pointer with 17:09 to play.

Texas took its first lead, 42-40, on a Mych Kabongo layup with 14:38 left and stretched the lead moments later when Kabongo scored on a fast-break play.

"J'Covan Brown came with a mindset to take over," Howland said. "They tore us apart (by shooting) 70 percent and we had a lot of breakdowns on our defensive execution. They did a great job with second-chance points (nine) and are a good, physical team.

"We're obviously disappointed in losing a game we felt we had a chance to win and played like it in the first 15 minutes."

Texas continued to be aggressive around the basket by setting screens that keep the Bruins from going inside to the Wear twins and Josh Smith. Travis Wear had 13 points and four rebounds, while David finished with eight points and seven rebounds.

Smith, who continues to easily fatigue, was a nonfactor with six points and three rebounds.

Guard Lazeric Jones lead UCLA with 21 points, but couldn't do it all, especially when he encountered foul trouble early on. The Bruins shot 30.8 percent in the second half, 38.6 percent for the game.

Meanwhile, the Longhorns, led by Brown's 22 points and Kabongo's 13, shot an impressive 70.8 percent in the second half, 54.7 percent for the game.

"They came out with a better plan than we did today," Jones said. "After the lights went out and I got those two quick fouls, I couldn't be out there helping my team. I take full responsibility. They made good plays and we need to watch film and get better."


Texas has physical play, UCLA has Reeves Nelson, Joshua Smith

Longhorns beat the Bruins, 69-59, at Sports Arena after trailing early. Reeves Nelson gets benched for second half and Joshua Smith gets winded. J'Covan Brown scores 22 for Texas.

By Diane Pucin
The Los Angeles Times
6:43 PM PST, December 3, 2011

Reeves Nelson, UCLA's leading scorer and rebounder a year ago, didn't play a minute in the second half and Joshua Smith, the Bruins' third-leading rebounder and fourth-leading scorer a year ago, played four of the final 20.

It is perhaps less noteworthy that UCLA lost to Texas, 69-59, Saturday at the Sports Arena than that junior forward Nelson spent most of the game on the bench laughing and pointing at people in the season-high crowd of 6,177 who were chanting his name or that sophomore center Smith didn't make it all the way up the court on more than one play as he would try to catch his breath.

Howland pointed to a missed defensive assignment in the first half and two bad practices leading into the game as reasons why Nelson didn't leave the bench in the second half and the continuing issue of Smith's lack of conditioning for his sit-down time.

"Reeves, it's up to him, to his mental part," Howland said. "He had a couple of practices that were not great and he missed a defensive assignment late in the first half when [Clint Chapman] dunked. Josh still has a lot to work to put in in terms of conditioning."

Neither Nelson nor Smith was available to comment after the game. Nelson missed his only shot and had two turnovers and three rebounds in 12 minutes while Smith had six points and three rebounds in 12 minutes.

Texas guard J'Covan Brown said Longhorns Coach Rick Barnes had told his team that if Texas (5-2) played physical, UCLA (2-5) would tire and fade.

"Coach said to keep wearing them down," said Brown, who had a game-high 22 points. "He told us if we keep hitting them with screens, they'll stop running through them."

For a while, it seemed the Bruins might find themselves an unexpected win. They broke to a 30-19 lead after a Smith free throw when the lights over the court went off after an areawide power surge.

After nearly 14 minutes of standing around, it was the Longhorns who took advantage of the break. When play resumed, Texas outscored UCLA 9-4 to finish the half and continued to play aggressively and quickly on offense in the second.

Howland suggested that the Bruins, before their next game Saturday against Pennsylvania, might install a zone defense.

At least one Bruin, point guard Lazeric Jones, hopes that doesn't happen.

"I'm not too big on the zone, to be honest," Jones said. "It's too stagnant. I feel like you get a little laid back. With the man-to-man you have to be aggressive."

But, at least according to the Texas players, most of the aggressiveness was on the Longhorns end Saturday.


UCLA BASKETBALL: Out go Sports Arena lights; Bruins then follow in losing to Texas

By Phil Collin Staff Writer
Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 12/03/2011 10:17:01 PM PST
Updated: 12/03/2011 10:56:38 PM PST

UCLA BASKETBALL: They falter after short blackout in Sports Arena, losing 11-point lead, then game.

So the latest "Twilight" movie is being accompanied by warnings of seizures suffered by filmgoers due to flashing light sequences.

You should see what the Sports Arena optics did to UCLA on Saturday.

UCLA was cruising along with a fast and furious start and holding an 11-point lead when the building went dark. After a 13-minute, 22-second delay, it was bright enough to play again.

And Texas lit up the Bruins with a 3-point barrage from J'Covan Brown in the Longhorns' 69-59 victory in front of 6,177.

"We have a chance to regroup," Texas guard Myck Kabongo said of the power outage with 3:59 left in the first half. "Thank God for those lights.

"It was a turning point."

UCLA (2-5) began to blink toward the end of the first half when Texas (5-2) closed with a five-point run capped by the first of Brown's four 3-pointers. Then the Longhorns got serious and bumped and screened their way through the second half and pulled away.

"We did a good job the first 15 minutes of the game when the lights went out," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "It's no excuse.

"Brown came in with the mindset he was going to take over in the second half and he did."

UCLA goes back to the drawing board trying to repair some issues that had haunted them before Monday's 62-39 win over Pepperdine, like defending the 3-pointer, getting back after screens and rediscovering Josh Smith and Reeves Nelson.
There may even be some tinkering. Even for a team already susceptible to outside shooting, a zone defense is not out of the question.

"Maybe we need to pack it in and take our chances with (opponents') outside shooting," Howland said. "I know this is a young team and we've got to keep improving our defense. You hate give up on that.

"But maybe we've got to mix it up some."

Brown scored a game-high 22 points, 11 in each half, but the Longhorns did their best work in the second half when they went deeper and deeper into the shot clock with their offense.

As the Bruins tried to fight through screens, the floor opened up for Kabongo (13 points, eight assists) to penetrate. Texas made 17 of 24 shots (70.8 percent) in the second half and shot 54.7 percent for the game.

"Basketball is not a physical sport and players don't like to get hit," Kabongo said. "And we were hitting them."

"Coach just said keep wearing them down, keep hitting them with screens," Brown said.

A 34-28 halftime lead disappeared when Kabongo passed low to Alexis Wangmene for a basket to make it 40-40. Texas took its first lead almost two minutes later when Kabongo flashed to the basket and Brown hit him with a pass to make it 42-40.

It was the beginning of a 10-1 run in which UCLA went without a field goal for 7:10 and missed seven shots along the way.

"For the most part, guys on the court are in pretty good shape," said UCLA forward Travis Wear, who had 13 points and two steals. "They were being really patient, taking time off the shot clock.

"But after you play defense for 25 seconds, fundamentals start to break down."

Lazeric Jones scored a season-high 21 points to lead UCLA, but he found a way to take some blame. Jones, who scored 10 consecutive points in one stretch, picked up his second foul late in the first half and wasn't on the court when Texas began to come back.

"After the lights went out and I got those two quick fouls, I couldn't be out there helping my team and I take full responsibility," Jones said.

Howland said he may take more risks with any foul trouble Jones might encounter in the future, but he apparently has two larger dilemmas to deal with.

Smith came off the bench and went 1 for 7 from the field and 4 for 8 from the free-throw line and had six points and three rebounds in a 12-minute performance that drew audible frustration from fans. The complete absence of Nelson in the second half appeared to irk them even more.

Howland seized the opportunity to illuminate his own dissatisfaction.

"Josh has got a lot of work to put in in terms of his conditioning, and it's got to be extra work outside of practice," Howland said.

"Reeves - it's him, it's his mental part. He had a couple practices that again were not great leading up to this game.

"He missed a defensive assignment late in the first half where (Clint Chapman of Texas) got a dunk where we just didn't come over and help. It was really frustrating, because everybody saw it coming on the bench.

"We'll see. We're hoping they'll both get it together here."


Lights go out on UCLA in 69-59 loss to Texas

The Daily Bruin
Published December 3, 2011, 7:15 pm in Men's Basketball, Sports

Late in the first half of Saturday’s game against Texas, a power surge left the Los Angeles Sports Arena dark with the UCLA men’s basketball team holding its largest lead of the game. Turns out, it effectively drew the curtains on the Bruins.

As the lights worked their way back to full brightness, the Bruins’ lead dissipated and the Longhorns surged ahead. Texas would quickly take the lead in the second half, and that was the only lead change of the game, which the Longhorns came from behind to win, 69-59.

The power outage demarcated two distinct stretches of play for the Bruins (2-5). Before, they were hot from the field, starting 6-of-6 with all five starters making a basket.

With UCLA holding an 11-point lead, play was stopped for 13 minutes after the lights turned off. That was enough time for the Bruins to cool off and the Longhorns (5-2) to find new life.

“Everything was going right for us,” redshirt sophomore forward Travis Wear said. “But that just comes from effort and playing hard at the beginning and doing our defensive principles. In the second half, we got away from that a little bit. We broke down, and it was kind of the snowball effect after that.”

Texas came out after the break and attacked UCLA’s tall frontline on offense and defense, pulling them outside on screen-and-rolls on one end while contesting every shot attempt near the basket on the other.

“Coach (Rick Barnes) said keep wearing them down, keep hitting them with screens, and they’re going to stop trying to run through them,” said Longhorns junior guard J’Covan Brown, who scored 22 points and was 4-of-8 on 3-pointers.

Texas chipped away and took the lead for good with 14:38 to play in the second half. The Longhorns shot 71 percent from the field in the second half, which once again had UCLA coach Ben Howland considering changing his defensive scheme after the game.

UCLA went without a field goal for more than seven minutes in the second half, a sloppy stretch full of missed layups and slow ball movement. The Bruins desperately needed a scoring punch, but Howland had already decided that it wasn’t going to come from the team’s leading returning scorer, junior forward Reeves Nelson.

After a sequence just before halftime when Nelson was dunked on and then had his shot blocked, Howland benched Nelson for the second half. Howland said that it was “horrible defense” on the dunk and that Nelson looked tired in his 12 minutes of first-half action.

“He had a couple practices that weren’t great leading up to this game,” added Howland, who suspended Nelson on Nov. 14.

One fan yelled “Put Reeves in!” late in the second half to the applause of those around him in the crowd of 6,177, UCLA’s best turnout at the Sports Arena this year. But Howland wouldn’t, possibly signaling that it’ll take more for Nelson to work his way out of the doghouse.

“I’m sure that Reeves will get everything together,” senior guard Lazeric Jones said. “I don’t doubt him at all.”

Click on boxscore to enlarge

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