Saturday, January 21, 2012

Defensive woes still haunt Howland

UCLA basketball notes: Defensive woes still haunt Howland

EUGENE, Ore. -- A day after UCLA's defensive debacle at Oregon State, Bruins coach Ben Howland was still shaking his head.

The Bruins allowed the Beavers to shoot 58 percent from the field and gave up a season-high in points in an 87-84 loss at Corvallis and it's something Howland said his team would have to rectify to have any chance to win Saturday at Oregon.

"Our defense was really, really poor," Howland said. "It’s just disappointing because when you watch it on film, it’s really our stance off the ball, our help, our sense of urgency and our intensity wasn’t where it needs to be. The main thing is to give all out great effort that we need to give."

Bruins players were getting beat off the dribble on the perimeter and the Oregon State post players were able to get around UCLA's defense with ease for easy baskets underneath. For a defense-minded coach like Howland, it's enough to drive him batty.

"We were just not aggressive enough the way we need to be," Howland said. "To win on the road is very difficult and you have to do by playing great defense and taking care of the basketball and playing smart. I think we’ll play better defense. When we watched the tape with the players, they saw that our intensity level has got to be ratcheted up."

QUICK TURNAROUND: The Bruins don't have much time to shore up those defensive issues as they play Oregon at 1 p.m. Saturday, making for only 38 hours between the end of the Oregon State game and the beginning of the Oregon game.

Howland said the team wouldn't hold a full practice Friday so the players could get enough rest between games.

"I'd like to do a practice, but I think we had a number of guys that played major minutes," Howland said. "These second games that start in the afternoon on a Saturday are tough because you don’t have a lot of rest time or preparation time."

NEW-LOOK DUCKS: Oregon (14-5, 5-2) is a very different team from the one that defeated UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament last year and went on to win the CBI tournament because of the addition of a few transfers.

Devoe Joseph, a senior guard, is leading the team in scoring with 15 points per game in his first season with Oregon after playing three seasons at Minnesota. Senior Olu Asholu, a senior forward, is second on the team in rebounding after transferring from Louisiana Tech and Tony Woods, the 6-foot-11 junior starting center, is a transfer from Wake Forest.

"They’ve added some really good players that have experience," Howland said. "Two are fifth-year seniors and one is a fourth-year junior. "They’re a much improved team."

Senior guard Garret Sim (12.4 points per game) and junior forward E.J. Singler (12.2) are also playing well and give the Ducks plenty of experienced players across the board.

"I've been really impressed with them," Howland said. "They’re a very good offensive team. They execute very well. They’re an outstanding offensive rebounding team and they’re a team that plays very hard defensively."

CALIFORNIA DREAMING: UCLA is still looking for its first victory over a Division I opponent outside of Southern California.

The road-weary Bruins defeated Division II Chaminade in the first round of the Maui Invitational, but have wins only in Los Angeles and Anaheim since then.

Ending that streak Saturday won't be easy against a good Oregon team that is 10-2 at home this season, especially considering that Oregon State was supposed to be the easier of the two games in Oregon and the Bruins have less time to prepare for the Ducks.

UCLA faced a similar situation last month when they dropped a close game at Stanford then got hammered at California in a Saturday afternoon game. They hope to have learned from that experience.

"It’s something we have to do," Lazeric Jones said. "For us to call ourselves athletes we have to be mentally prepared for this situation. Myself, I’m definitely going to make sure that I’m more ready. I don’t want to take a game off. The Cal game I felt like I took the game off a little bit and I feel I need to come out there and put pressure on the defense."

Forward David Wear said the Bruins can not afford to dwell on the Oregon State loss if they are to have success against Oregon.

"I think that's the biggest thing we learned from the Bay Area trip," Wear said. "Let this one go. Learn from it, but think about our next opponent. We’ve got to focus on beating Oregon. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes, build off of it and get better."

NO FIRESIDE CHAT: Howland called off the fireside chat he has traditionally held with reporters at the team hotel in between games on the Oregon trip, presumably because he couldn't afford to spend the time away from game preparations.

Howland normally meets with the media in a casual setting in front of a fireplace at the hotel bar and last year discussed everything from basketball to politics to bed bugs both on the record and off during a 40-minute session.

He said would have liked to do it again, but it just didn't work out this year and held a 10-minute, nuts-and-bolts conference call instead.

"I prefer it in there," Howland said. "That's always nice."

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