Middle Tennessee State 86, UCLA 66
It was as bad as the final score indicated.
After getting beat by LMU in the season opener as a direct result of uncontested drives and poor perimeter defense, the UCLA Bruins were blown out at “home” by Middle Tennessee State in a game they were predicted to win handily.
The culprits? Uncontested layups and poor perimeter defense.
It was like watching an instant replay of the LMU game, just against a better team. While the Lions shot 10-of-15 from downtown, the visiting Blue Raiders went 10-of-11, including an NCAA record-tying nine in a row before their first miss.
MTS shot an incredible 71 percent from the floor against Ben Howland’s team. Howland, who always preaches limited opponents to under 40 percent shooting and dominating the boards, won neither battle.
The Blue Raiders showed poise, athleticism and the ability to make outside shots, things UCLA tangibly lacks after two games. In the face of MTS’ stifling defense, the Bruins managed only 37 percent shooting from the floor and shot an appalling 4-of-20 from downtown.
What makes this loss worse for UCLA is not just that Middle Tennessee State won, but they did it by doing anything they wanted. It became clear after the first half that this Blue Raider team revolved its offense around an inside game, making their success from outside just an added bonus. UCLA left their shooters so wide open, they couldn’t help but bury the Bruins from dreamland.
Howland needs to rally his troops, and fast. UCLA heads to the Maui part of the Maui Invitational next Monday, and you can bet Howland will have them practicing hard before they step on the plane. Mercifully, they have Chaminade to start, but after these first few letdowns, the Silverswords might be favored.
UCLA gets a C- from me after their latest debacle. They struggled in almost every aspect of the game, but there is plenty of time to improve. It’s still early in the season, and the players still have yet to come together as a team.
Moving forward, here are grades for the Bruin players against Middle Tennessee State.