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College Basketball Opening Weekend: Three Observations From UCLA & USC

Both UCLA and USC basketball opened the season with home wins over Big West opponents, Cal St. Northridge and UC Irvine, respectively.

Both the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans opened the basketball season with home wins over Big West opponents, Cal St. Northridge and UC Irvine, respectively. Following college basketball's opening weekend, there are both reasons to be optimistic and pessimistic regarding UCLA and USC. Here are three observations from the openers for both the Bruins and Trojans.

1) How long will "push it" remain a constant in Westwood?

In what is being dubbed as an era of "push" basketball for UCLA, the Bruins opened the season with an 83-point scoring outburst at home against Cal State Northridge of the Big West Conference, in which they did more than just flex their offensive muscles. In fact, Howland's bunch began the game on a 15-0 run that largely kept the Matadors out of range from the onset. Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Timesnotes the offensive speed, which the Bruins displayed early on: 

UCLA had promised to play fast, but no one said anything about starting games at warp speed. The Bruins scored basket after basket, essentially ending any suspense about the outcome in the first five minutes.

It was like a highlight reel stuck on fast forward. Bruins guard Lazeric Jones repeatedly buried jumpers and forward Tyler Honeycutt whisked an over-the-shoulder pass to Reeves Nelson for a dunk.

"We just wanted to set the tone for what's going to happen this year," said Nelson, who finished with a game-high 17 points on six-for-six shooting.

The early lead eventually swelled to 28 points as UCLA made a staggering 72% of its shots in the first half.

As Bruins Nation notes, the carnage could have been much worse if not for a bit of a letdown on the part of UCLA late in the second half. At the 12 minute mark, the Bruins had amassed 72 points; yet, over the remainder of the contest, finished with just 11-points. It's nitpicking, but hey, what am I here for?

2) Does the zone defense still own Kevin O'Neill? 

Once again, the Kevin O'Neill coached Trojans struggled against the zone defense, for a much of game, in which "ugly" may have been all too appropriate of an adjective. They seemed confused on set plays, and instead of aggressively attacking the interior, the offense appeared content with keeping the ball on the perimeter and shooting desperation 3-pointers, in which they shot just 31.8%.

3) Curious Shot Distribution 

On Saturday, reserve USC guard Donte Smith attempted 10 field goals, in which he made just two, while starting guards Bryce Jones and Maurice Jones each went 4-of-12 from the field. Conversely, the Trojans' best offensive option, Nikola Vucevic, attempted a total of just 10 shots, in which he was able to still score 19 points. Despite his offensive efficiency, which remains atop the Pac-10, it's perplexing as to why he did not see more open look.

For more on UCLA and USC, check out Bruins Nation and Conquest Chronicles.