Bruins De-“Claw” Cats





Arizona’s make-shift 1-3-1 “Claw” defense was methodically ripped to shreds in an 83-60 mauling at the hands of the UCLA Bruins at Pauley Pavilion. This isn’t the first time that the Wildcats have seen their Dunlap brainstorm defense look this bad – Cal did it, Stanford did it, and most dramatically so did UNLV. The ‘Claw’ is designed to pressure opponents front court into making what Oregon Coach Ernie Kent deemed as ‘basketball plays’ but not necessarily to trap or create turnovers. After a player is able to make a tough play (splitting a double-team, reversing the ball, finding the open skip pass, etc.) their teammates are able to find easy looks from beyond the arc or in the middle of the court right around the free throw line..



That major flaw in the zone was exploited at will by the Bruins who shot nearly 60% from the field, and had 9 of their 28 buckets come from right in the center of that gap. When the Bruins weren’t passing into the heart of the defensive gap, they were using dribble penetration to slip past Arizona’s perimeter players just about any time they looked to. If and when the defense collapsed, UCLA did a great job of kicking the ball out for 17 open looks beyond the arc. The ‘Cats have proven they can make this work, but have yet to do so against a good three-point shooting team, and UCLA made the defensive problems so glaring that Pennell and Co. may need to go back to the drawing board midway through the season.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the court the Bruins did just enough to disrupt the Wildcats and force them into the occasional turnover. UCLA’s defense wasn’t as stifling as it has been against the ‘Cats in previous years, but it was still enough to disrupt the Wildcats offensive flow and put them into a few two-minute scoring droughts over the course of the game. The Wildcats were able to limit their turnovers, as they had 9 before Garland Judkins’ 2 turnovers with under 4 minutes remaining. Unfortunately those 9 turnovers led to the Wildcats being significantly outscored in fast-break opportunities again – a common theme in each of the last six losses.


The Wildcats problems continued against UCLA when Nic Wise was limited to a paltry five on points on 1-for-8 shooting, and appears to be going head-long into a slump of his own. Wise, who is now 2-17 in the last two games, has been providing a significant portion of Arizona’s offense this season, was did have an impact on the game with 5 assists as several times he penetrated and dished off to the open man. I was very pleased with how Wise kept his head in the game and continued to find ways to help his team even if his shots weren’t falling. Occasionally, however, the Wildcats need Wise to become a scorer and not just a playmaker, particularly when Jordan Hill is on the bench due to foul trouble.


Wise wasn’t the real problem offensively tonight, that comes down on Arizona’s “hustle” guys – Jamelle Horne and Kyle Fogg. I’m not bashin’ on the kids here, but they have both seen better games. Horne and Fogg thrive on picking up loose rebounds, coming up with the occasional steal, and doing all the intangibles that make every team “stick.” The ‘Cats two hustle guys came up with 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 steal. If you take away the final two minutes they only combined for 3 points before the UCLA bench was cleared. Big stats aren’t typically something you expect out of the hustle guys, but unfortunately with this roster against a team like UCLA, it is a must-have if they want to win.

So it’s not that the Wildcats had a horrendous night, but they clearly aren’t hitting on all cylinders right now. Perhaps that illusive first road-win won’t come until the ‘Cats travel to Washington or Oregon later this season. Perhaps they just can’t win on the road – period. Maybe it’s just that they’re unlucky when it comes to road games at the toughest venues the PAC-10 has to offer? Whatever the case may be, one thing is apparent: The ‘Cats still need a lot of work when other teams are fine-tuning and that spells trouble.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

With 54% shooting adding up to 14 points, it is safe to say that Budinger is out of his slump.

Jordan Hill was a monster inside the paint yet again. But once again the ‘Cats failed to look for him within 8 feet of the basket with any regularity. Hill handled the double and triple teams the Bruins threw at him quite well on the night though.

I can’t complain about the officiating. Sure there were a few bad calls and a few blown ones. That’s basketball, and PAC-10 basketball at that.

I really like what I’m seeing out of Zane Johnson the last several games. He’s been putting in extra time in the gym working on his jumper and it’s paying off. He could be rewarded with a starting job in the near future.

While UCLA’s defense was solid, it wasn’t as impressive as it has been in previous years. The Wildcats found themselves with quite a few open looks but for whatever reason just couldn’t knock ‘em down.

Another problem I have with Arizona’s defensive effort is the growing trend of long offensive rebounds. UCLA exploited every second chance opportunity that they had and turned them into points. Every single one of them.

Garland Judkins was back at practice this week, and back in the game tonight but is clearly on a short leash. I’d be amazed if he doesn’t transfer at the end of the season – if he’s still on the team then.

UCLA’s ShotChart:




5 Responses to “Bruins De-“Claw” Cats”

  1. 1 Todd January 16, 2009 at 7:51 am

    I’m impressed at how many positive things you found to say. That was a predictable outcome. I think UCLA’s talent and depth are marginally better than Arizona’s, but the big difference is coaching. Not to “bag on the coaches”, but Dunlap is supposed a defensive genius, like O’Neill before him. Why is it that these defensive schemes have been “ripped to shreds,” as you put it, over the last two years? Even UCLA’s bench guys were not finding it difficult to find open shots against the “claw”. We desperately need to make some adjustments on D. How about a more traditional match-up 2-3? Anything, please!

    You mention the Cats having “quite a few open looks”. While I do remember five or six dunks, and a couple of open three’s, my general impression was that 85% of UCLA’s shots were uncontested compared to maybe 15% of ours. Not sure about this, but it seemed to be a major theme of the game.

    Keep up the good work. Your previews and recaps are better than the Star, Citizen, AP, and everything else out there. And what happened to the McKale pic in your title bar? One vote here for bringing it back.

  2. 2 naterb January 16, 2009 at 9:14 am

    I would say that UCLA has a significant advantage in talent and depth – and that was extremely apparent last night. They had 9 players on the scoreboard by halftime.

    I would take Collison over Wise anyday of the week.
    Same goes for Holiday over Fogg.
    I would take Budinger over Shipp.
    Horne (when he’s on) over Dragovic. But Dragovic is emerging as the better player.
    Hill I would take over any UCLA player, period.
    Then they’ve got Keefe, who’s good enough to be a starter for UCLA, and Roll – who is an improved (more experienced) version of Zane Johnson. That’s not even getting into their full depth, but I would take those two over any remaning UA player.
    I would also take each respective players 7-10 over their Arizona counterparts.
    J’Mison Morgan was injured and got scrub minutes, but he’s a talented freshman that will be a force down the road.

    I changed the page theme, and the header has a line down the middle of it, which ruined the picture’s appeal on this theme. I like the grey color and the font, etc. of this layout better… but I am missing that picture. I’ll figure something out eventually.

  3. 3 marc January 16, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    NaterB love your passion. Todd has it right when he talks about defense. It really comes down to a commitment to defense and not just playing it in spurts. The talent differential between most BCS teams in modern NCAA hoops isn’t that wide. It comes down, most nights, to making hustle plays and hitting shots. U of A can do a lot better than Kyle Fogg at the #2 guard in my opinion. Onubon needs to play a bigger role too, he at least, adds some intensity and physicality on defense and under the boards.

  4. 4 naterb January 16, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    Todd – I updated the header again to attempt to get McKale back up there without that line being too much of a disruption.

    I’m up for input – and I really liked the McKale up there too. But you can see how that line is annoying. When it was just McKale it went straight down the middle of the court. Had to do something.

  5. 5 Todd January 17, 2009 at 10:23 am

    Thanks for bringing her back. Yeah, the line is annoying, but the image of the home floor with the red and blue speaks to cats fans. It feels like home.

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January 2009
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