UCLA Basketball: Biggest Takeaways Following Loss to Duke

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2013

Dec 19, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jabari Parker (1) shoots the ball over UCLA Bruins guard/forward Kyle Anderson (5) and Bruins forward Travis Wear (24) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. The Blue Devils won 80-63. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

After coming into the game with high expectations, UCLA could not keep up with Duke in the second half and lost 80-63. The good news is that this defeat can be a learning experience going forward.

This was the Bruins' second loss in a span of three games after starting the year 8-0. Without many quality nonconference wins, their NCAA tournament resume does not look too great.

However, there is still a long way to go before Selection Sunday. UCLA has a strong chance of performing well in the Pac-12 this year, but the team must improve based on these lessons from the most recent loss.


Jordan Adams Must Be More Aggressive

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Jordan Adams #3 of the UCLA Bruins drives against Josh Greene #0 of the Cal State Northridge Matadors at Pauley Pavilion on November 28, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.   UCLA won 82-56.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Image
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Over the first 10 games of the season, Jordan Adams was by far the team's best offensive player, averaging 21.2 points per game while making 37.5 percent of his shots from three-point range.

Unfortunately, he was held in check by Duke, finishing with only 10 points on 4-for-10 shooting, including 0-for-3 from behind the arc.

Still, the most telling stat of the day was his two made free throws, which is the second-lowest mark of the year. Adams has excelled at driving to the rim and getting himself easy points at the line. Against the length of Duke, he could not do anything.

The sophomore has a natural scoring ability that puts him among the best in the country, but UCLA now depends on this every game. When he struggles to score, so does the rest of the offense.

Head coach Steve Alford credited the Duke defense with shutting down his top scorer, via Howard Megdal of Sports on Earth:

I thought they did a really good job on him. Because it's the first time all year when Jordan has been held down -- where, if his shot wasn't going down, he got to the free-throw line. And they did a good job of containing him, plus keeping him off the free-throw line, so I've got to give Duke, and the players who were on him, a lot of credit.

Still, it will be up to Adams to overcome the defense going forward.


Don't Stop Running

Dec 19, 2013; New York, NY, USA; UCLA Bruins guard Bryce Alford (20) dribbles the ball around Duke Blue Devils forward Jabari Parker (1) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. The Blue Devils won 80-63. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sp
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

In the first half, UCLA was able to stick with Duke every step of the way thanks to some great transition offense. The Bruins ran up and down the court every chance they could, and it led to a tied score at 37-37 going into intermission.

ESPN's Andy Katz was one of many who noticed the speed of the game:

However, the lack of depth seemed to hurt the squad down the stretch. Only eight players stepped onto the floor for UCLA, and it led to some tired legs, as noted by Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer:

Still, this will not be as much of a problem against most other opponents. Few other teams in the country will be able to keep up with this pace for 40 minutes, and it will give the Bruins the advantage.

The key will be to utilize more players in the rotation, even if it is for a short period of time early in games.


Use Multiple Defenses

Dec 19, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Jabari Parker (1) drives to the basket between UCLA Bruins guard Jordan Adams (3) and forward Travis Wear (left) during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TO
Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Things looked ugly on the defensive end early for UCLA as Duke was able to do pretty much whatever it wanted. However, the switch to zone worked well at first, as noted by ESPN Stats and Information:

Jeff Goodman of ESPN also pointed out that this strategy has been a common thing for the Bruins this season:

The problem is that it did not work out well in the end after Duke made adjustments, and it led to a relatively easy second-half effort for the Blue Devils. Katz provided this as a recap to the game:

It is hard to win at this level without playing defense. At this point, the individual efforts are not good enough to handle man, yet the zone has been too easy to figure out after enough possessions.

Therefore, the best solution is to change things up over the course of the game to maintain confusion on the court. 

Alford has to utilize his players in a way that can help get wins, and the best thing to do is to keep the opponent on its toes. As long as the communication is good between all of the players, this strategy should help overcome a big weakness for the remainder of the season.


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