Possessive case is studied
Stan Love, father of star UCLA freshman Kevin, wore a jacket to Tuesday’s Bruins game against Western Illinois with stitched letters that said, “Feed the Animal.”
When asked where he got the jacket, Stan said, “Kevin gave it to me.” Then Stan winked. Kevin is the animal who wants to be fed basketballs.
As the rest of UCLA’s players get used to having a 6-foot-10, 262-pound post player who can reliably catch the ball and willingly pass it, there have been moments this season when it seemed that Love wasn’t getting the ball enough.
In wins over Davidson and Idaho State, there were at least four times when Love was visibly frustrated, throwing his arms in the air or dawdling on his way back to play defense. And last Monday, UCLA Coach Ben Howland mentioned he thought Love was at about 80% of his optimum fitness.
“I know Coach Howland says I’m not in the best shape,” Love said Tuesday after having a game-high 16 points on five-for-five shooting from the field and the same from the free-throw line. “I don’t know where that came from.”
To figure out whether Love is getting the ball enough and what happens when Love does touch the ball on offense, here’s a look at when and where he touched the basketball against Western Illinois and what happened on possessions that he did get the ball.
Love’s first touch came when Russell Westbrook fed him inside. Love scored a layup with 17 minutes left. About 48 seconds later Westbrook tried again, but the pass was fumbled.
With 14:30 left, Love caught a pass near the free-throw line, gave it up and eventually Westbrook missed a jump shot. Less than a minute later, Love was on the bench for Lorenzo Mata-Real.
Love returned at 10:13 and on UCLA’s first possession, Michael Roll handed the ball to Love on the perimeter and Love made a three-pointer.
The shot seemed to give Love an energy boost; 49 seconds later, he worked hard to pull in an offensive rebound on a Westbrook miss and made both free throws.
In a play that made Howland smile, Love received the ball at the top of the key and passed to an open Mata-Real, who missed a layup. But Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored on the offensive rebound.
Love didn’t get an assist, but it is that sort of sequence that Howland has said Love is so good at. By Love making a perfect pass to Mata-Real, Mbah a Moute was able to convert an offensive rebound into a basket.
On UCLA’s next set, Love was called for a foul for setting an illegal screen. The freshman raised his shoulders and mouthed, “Huh?” while looking toward Howland.
With 5:02 left, Love took a feed from Josh Shipp and passed out of a double team to Alfred Aboya, who converted an open layup. With 2:57 left, Love went to the bench.
On UCLA’s first possession in the second half, Love got the ball around the key, passed to Westbrook, who got the ball back to Love for a layup.
Second possession, Love had the ball out near the key, passed back to Darren Collison, took it again from Westbrook and made a bullet pass to Mbah a Moute under the basket. The ball was slightly tipped by a Leatherneck and ended up out of bounds belonging to UCLA. Two seconds later, Westbrook found Love for a layup.
Two possessions later, after a Western Illinois miss, Love threw an outlet pass to Westbrook for a layup, and 29 seconds after that Mbah a Moute got a pass to Love, who was fouled on a layup and made two free throws.
All together in the game, by one unofficial count, Love had the ball in his hands on 20 UCLA possessions and UCLA scored on 15 of them.
“I felt like we played a great game,” Love said afterward. “Our field-goal percentage was very high. Darren and Russell found me inside a bunch of times. Luc was looking for me as well.”
Love did say Howland may have a point about his fitness.
“I’d say he’s pretty accurate,” Love said. “I can get leaps and bounds better. Which I am. In the last four weeks I think I’ve lost nine pounds.”
Collison said it’s still a learning process for Love and the team.
“I’ve got to feed him at all different angles,” he said. “The defense plays him in so many different ways.
“For example, on the high side I’ve got to get him with the bounce pass. If they play behind him, I’ve got to throw it in right away. You know guys are doubling him so when you give it to him you’ve got to cut, get ready to get the ball back, get ready to shoot.”