UCLA had some trouble in paradise once again Wednesday, continuing what has been a worst-case scenario start to the season with a 79-63 loss to Michigan in the third-place game of the Maui Invitational.
The Bruins, as has been their standard operating procedure in three games in Hawaii, came out in the second half and made a run to cut a 38-31 halftime deficit to 46-41, but Michigan got hot from beyond the arc and sealed the game with five three-pointers in the final 11:35 of the game.
The Bruins fell to 1-4 for the first time since 1987 and leave the Hawaiian islands still without a victory against a Division I team. They defeated Division II Chaminade in the first round of the tournament.
Five observations from the game:
1UCLA's defensive woes continued
Ben Howland teams rarely allow opponents to shoot 50 percent for a game, but that's what UCLA opponents are shooting this season.
Michigan became the second team to shoot better than 60 percent against the Bruins this season by making 29-of-47 shots from the field. It brought UCLA's field goal percentage defense for the season to 50.1 percent.
The Bruins were too slow to stay in front of dribblers, too slow to switch on screens and too late in providing help defense because they were too slow. The result was a bevy of wide open, uncontested shots that Michigan players had no trouble making from all over the floor and easy layups.
Howland, a stickler for defense, hinted earlier this season that he might switch to a zone, but showed it only briefly in Hawaii. The personnel is better suited for a zone and with only two games in the next 16 days, the Bruins will have plenty of time to practice it.
2UCLA couldn't capitalize on its size advantage
The Bruins played six players who are 6-8 or taller while Michigan played only two players that tall for significant minutes, yet the Wolverines out-rebounded UCLA, 32-24, and tied the Bruins on points in the paint, 34-34.
Nobody on UCLA had more than five rebounds and one of the two players who had five was 6-1 point guard Lazeric Jones. The other was 6-10 center Joshua Smith. Twins David and Travis Wear, 6-10 forwards, had two rebounds each.
Travis Wear and Smith were able to make an impact on offense with Wear scoring a team-leading 16 points and Smith adding 12, but David Wear, Anthony Stover and Reeves Nelson were pretty much non-factors on offense. Nelson had six points while Stover and Wear had zero.
3The backcourt bailout didn't arrive
The last two nights, UCLA's guard play has helped the Bruins overcome deficiencies in the supposedly superior front court, but on Wednesday the cavalry couldn't get going.
Jerime Anderson, UCLA's most consistent player so far this season, was solid again with 12 points on four of nine shooting, but Tyler Lamb and Lazeric Jones were a combined one for 11 from the field. Jones scored eight points--all from the free throw line--and Lamb finished with three.
4Foul trouble again hurt Joshua Smith
Smith played only 19 minutes against Michigan despite coming off of the bench in an effort to keep him out of the foul trouble that limited him to only eight minutes the night before. He played only seven minutes in the first half, yet picked up two fouls and got a third foul 19 seconds into the second half.
He was an effective scorer when in the game, able to muscle his way around the post and finished with 12 points on six of nine shooting with two assists. But he was called for at least two fouls on the offensive end and had six turnovers total -- four in the second half.
5Lazeric Jones played too many minutes
Simply put, Jones is hurting the team more than he is helping it at this point. He had another woeful shooting night, going 0-5 from the field, and had only three assists in 32 minutes.
Jones this season is now shooting 24.4 percent from the field (12 of 49) and he is four of 31 (12.9 percent) against Division I opponents. Anderson is fully capable of manning the point guard spot and freshman Norman Powell has shown enough in limited time to warrant some more minutes at the third guard spot.
Powell was in the game for 20 minutes Wednesday, but his teammates seemed to make an effort to not give him the ball. He's shown some good athletic moves and while he's also making freshman mistakes, he's not hurting the team the way Jones is during this early-season shooting slump.