Games Notes: Washington State at UCLA
Thompson is a factor. A non-factor.
Klay Thompson arrived for Saturday’s game against UCLA with the reputation as the top scorer in the Pac-10 Conference, fully equipped with the lofty numbers to prove it. However, the Washington State sophomore left with a damaged ego.
Frustrated from start to finish, Thompson ended up with 13 points in 37 minutes of play, nearly 10 below his season’s average. And as result, the Cougars struggled throughout, losing to the Bruins, 74-62, in front of a packed house at Pauley Pavilion.
Six points in the first half certainly didn’t help matters much. Things didn’t get any better for Thompson. He went through several long stretches without a bucket, and ultimately, finished 5-17 from the floor and 2-9 from beyond the three-point arc.
This coming from a guy who entered the game averaging 22.8 points per contest. This coming from a guy who entered the game shooting 46 percent from the field. In retrospect, it’s difficult to believe that Thompson played so poorly.
Chalk it up as an off night.
*** Mustafa Abdul-Hamid hasn’t played much this year, averaging a mere nine minutes per game, mostly in garbage time. The UCLA junior did make the most of his opportunity earlier in the week against Washington though, hitting the game-winning shot at the buzzer in a 62-61 victory. “You just have to believe in yourself and let the shot go,” he said. Fair enough. It will be interesting to see if some of his new-found confidence earns him some new-found playing time.
*** Tyler Honeycutt is in the starting lineup for the Bruins, a sure sign that he’s beginning to realize some of his immense potential. The graduate from Sylmar High, about a 30-minute drive from Westwood, was one of the nation’s top recruits among the 2009 class. His peers include John Wall, Derrick Favors and Avery Bradley. Now, let’s see if Honeycutt is capable of living up to all the hype.
*** Looking forward to seeing Reggie Moore in action. The Washington St. freshman is the conference’s only rookie starting at the point for his team. And he’s doing a pretty good job. In Pac-10 play, the heady floor general ranks among the top 10 in scoring, assists, steals and free-throw percentage.
*** UCLA opens up in a zone, a puzzling decision given the fact coach Ben Howland is known for preaching man-to-man defense. It’s a hallmark of his. Perhaps the move is geared toward limiting the opportunities of you know who, Thompson.
*** Malcolm Lee is feeling it. He scores inside, knocks down a deep jumper, just inside the three-point arc, and adds a reverse layup to give the Bruins an 8-3 lead at 15:25.
*** Moore keeps the Cougars close with a pair of three-pointers and a pull-up jumper. He follows his own miss with a tip-in to cut the UCLA advantage to three points with 12:58 left.
*** Thompson is left wide-open, all by himself at the top of the key. Big mistake. He buries one from way downtown at 9:37. The bucket is, surprisingly, his first of the game. Washington St. trails 16-15, a good sign considering Thompson‘s lack of production.
*** Howland calls a timeout. He knows UCLA is in trouble if Thompson gets it going.
*** In search of a spark, Marcus Capers provides one for Washington St. Following an Xavier Thames miss, Capers skies for the rebound, well above the UCLA defense, and throws down a two-handed dunk. The Bruins are still up two points with 5:58 left. But maybe, just maybe, the sequence will give the Cougars some momentum because they haven’t mustered up any to this point.
*** Abdul-Hamid gets hot, scoring eight straight points. His pair of three-pointers and a jumper from out on the wing extends the lead to 26-21 with 5:03 before the break.
*** Thompson is clearly frustrated. He’s called for an offensive foul as Reeves Nelson steps in front of him and draws the charge. At the other end, Nelson is hacked and converts two free-throws to give UCLA a nine-point advantage at 2:48. Nelson finishes with 19 points and 7 rebounds.
*** A three-pointer by Thompson just before halftime gives the Cougars a glimmer of hope, albeit slim, as they go into intermission down 30-27.
*** The first possession is designed for Thompson. But his three-pointer is way off the mark. Not even close, in fact. The Bruin backers begin chanting: “Airball… Airball… Airball…” Can’t imagine the Cougars wanted to start things this way.
*** The guards for UCLA are having a tough time stopping Moore. He hits another shot, a three-pointer. Washington St. is down 32-30 at 17:42.
*** Lee is doing a good job of distributing the ball. His no-look pass to Nelson along the baseline leads to a thunderous two-handed dunk. The advantage is extended six points with 14:26 left. Momentum is building for the Bruins.
*** After a quick two-minute stint on the bench, Thompson returns, seemingly with a clear conscience. Maybe not. He misses an easy left-handed layup and throws up a brick from three-point land. The Cougars trail 44-33 at 12:14.
*** Nikola Dragovic drains a pair of three-pointers for UCLA to make it a 14-point game with 11:54 left on the clock. He totals 18 points by game’s end.
*** Without Moore, Washington St. has no chance. None whatsoever. Another tough shot falls to cut the deficit to 48-37 at 10:15, ending an eight-minute scoreless drought. He finishes with a game-high 24 points, one shy of his career high, with six three-pointers. Dude is on fire.
*** Thompson is wide open. Again. Didn’t the Bruins learn the first time around? Guess they figure that it’s not worth jumping out on him untl he proves he can start knocking down some baskets. Whatever the case, the strategy works. He throws up another brick at 8:02.
*** Thompson is cold. Ice cold. If he doesn’t start making those shots, and making them in a hurry, there won’t be any comeback by the Cougars.
*** Michael Roll hits a pull-up jumper in the lane. UCLA leads by 15 points. There’s 6:12 remaining. For all intents and purposes, this one is over. Can’t imagine Washington St. making a miraculous rally. No way, no how. It’s not going to happen.
*** Thompson scores seven points down the stretch. But it’s too little, too late. The Bruins win, 74-62. Thompson finishes with the five turnovers and five field goals. That’s right five field goals. Never saw that coming. Don’t think anybody did, for that matter.
*** A quick look at the box score reveals the Bruins shot 73.7 percent in the second half, in large part to the marksmanship of Dragovic and Nelson. When all was said and done, UCLA nailed 59.1 percent overall. Not too shabby. Washington State, on the other hand, finished with a 35.6 percent clip. Not too good.
*** With Thompson struggling, the Cougars had little chance, a point that Washington St. coach Ken Bone made blatantly clear afterward. He said: “Klay had trouble hitting from three. When that happens, other guys have to step up and make shots.” Aside from Moore, no one stepped up. End of story.