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The defense is a scary thing to watch right now, even though there is ample evidence that it is improving. The lack of depth is terrifying. What is going on with Tony Parker? He played five minutes at a time when the Bruins were in serious need of a powerful front-line athlete.
The improvements are small and coming at the metal forge, as opposed to whipped up by the cotton candy fan, but they are coming.
The problems are with the front line and right in front of the basket. That is like admitting you can stop the archers from over beyond the hill, but the knights on chargers are going to break down gates and storm the donjon keep.
That transfer from West Virginia that The Beach has, Dan Jennings, scored 27 points on 13-15 shooting. He nearly tore the rim off the backboard on a follow up dunk and slammed down several more—and seasoned those with and-one lay-ins all night.
If UCLA's offense hadn't been oil firing The Beach, Jeninngs, along with James Ennis, who had 20 points and six rebounds, might have carried the thing on their own with limited help.
But Ennis is a senior and he is going to get a long look in the NBA. With just a little improvement to his game, he will play professionally somewhere. It's hard to say about Jennings. Judging by the way he played tonight, he will be the next Darrel Dawkins with a little bit of Jerome Lane to him.
It is the front-line though. Kyle Anderson is going to get stuck in some difficult rotations because of his height at 6'9". His freshman physical strength, which isn't enough to keep him from being run over, will make him vulnerable.
The Wear twins are pretty good finesse players. If they want to be difference-makers on defense, they are going to have to change a fundamental aspect of their mentality going forward. I won't call them soft inside, but I won't say there are oak, maybe pine.
The man-to-man is getting meaner, but it is not being locked-down for full possessions. There are miscommunications and slow rotations—especially on high screen and rolls with hedges and switches. These lead to late lapses and thundering dunks from opponents. Long Beach State was hammering at the iron all night.
The team needs to get into that leg burning pleasure of the defensive grind. The lock-down, slide-step, block-path, force-pass, block-shot, grab-board outlet pass to finish at the other end is stuff that great teams relish.
There was the rare and beautiful forced shot clock violation late in the game. It was a fairly big spot as UCLA was going up 12, then 15 and then 17. That is so demoralizing for an opponent and it used to be a regular thing. There were promising signs but the inside, the heart, is far too exposed.