Howland sits Holiday over defense, but freshman doesn’t see it

If Ben Howland was upset by his team’s defensive effort in Saturday’s 82-81 loss to Washington State, the UCLA coach made it clear at the beginning of the second half.

Guard Jrue Holiday, a starter, remained on the bench after the man he was guarding -- Washington State’s Klay Thompson -- had scored 15 points in the first 20 minutes.

“It’s just that he defensively was breaking down on some of his responsibilities, which is to trail the shooter and not go underneath screens,” Howland said of Holiday.

The freshman, for his part, did not see a big problem.

“I thought I played defense well,” Holiday said. “He was just knocking down shots. He was firing and they were going in.”

Howland pointed out that Thompson was held scoreless in the second half, which began with reserve guard Malcolm Lee on the court.


“We’re going to have to play him more,” the coach said. “He’s our best defensive wing right now.”

By game’s end, Holiday had 16 minutes, well below his average, while Lee’s playing time increased to the same amount.

“I just tried to crowd him,” Lee said of his effort against Thompson. “Basically, use my athleticism.”

Close calls

Washington State’s mediocre Pacific 10 Conference record includes several close defeats. Three times -- against UCLA, USC and Oregon State -- the Cougars have lost by two points at home.

“We’ve lost some close games and we’ve won some close games,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “I told our guys that I have a lot of fight in me despite our record and I was hoping they would have that same fight.”

Official reaction

Neither Howland nor his players questioned the officials’ calls that went against UCLA.

“We had a lot of bounces not go our way there late in the game, where every time the ball went out of bounds, it was off of us,” Howland said. “It was a tough game that way.”

With two seconds remaining, Washington State intentionally missed a free throw. Alfred Aboya rebounded and passed to Josh Shipp, who dribbled before shooting from inside the half-court line. Thompson blocked the shot.

“It’s amazing how many of those half-court shots Josh has made,” Howland said. “If he wouldn’t have taken the dribble, I’d love to see him get a clean look at it.”