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Monday, November 21, 2011
UCLA sluggish on both ends of court

By Evan Kaplan and John Zoni

Entering tonight's game against Chaminade in their Maui Invitational opener (9:30 ET on ESPNU), the UCLA Bruins are 0-2 for the first time in nine years, on the heels of being ranked 20th in the ESPN/USA Today preseason coaches’ poll.

The shocking part of UCLA's two losses is the who, the how and the how much. The Bruins' defeats have come by a combined 31 points against the Loyola Marymount Lions and Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, who were a combined 27-37 last season. That sharply contrasts the Bruins' opponents in their previous 0-2 start, when they lost to the San Diego Toreros and Duke Blue Devils, both NCAA Tournament teams.

The Bruins have struggled offensively, especially in the half-court where they are shooting just 36.0 percent and relying on outside jumpers which have not been falling. Of their offensive possessions, 18.8 percent have resulted in a spot-up jumper, more than any other type of play. On those plays, the Bruins are just 8-for-29 from the field including 5-of-24 from the guards.

Compounding the problem is that UCLA has failed to get easy points inside as it has managed just seven points on post-up plays.

On the other end of the floor, the Bruins have given up nearly 80 points per game on over 55 percent shooting from the field which is in stark contrast to its start last season.

On Tuesday, UCLA allowed Middle Tennessee State to shoot 71.4 percent from the field, including 10-for-11 from beyond the three-point line. That field goal percentage was the highest UCLA has allowed in any game over the last 15 seasons.

One specific area of concern has been UCLA’s inability close out on jump shots. Loyola-Marymount and Middle Tennessee State were a combined 13-of-18 on catch-and-shoot plays, after UCLA held opponents to just 35 percent shooting on such plays last season. Additionally, UCLA’s defense is allowing a 52.9 field goal percentage on all jump shots in the half court, which currently ranks 338th out of 346 Division I teams.