Basketball Film Study: Final Play of UCLA-Cal


The game between UCLA and Cal in Pauley Pavilion was among the most painful defeats of the 2010-2011 season. After an incredible second half capped by a clutch Allen Crabbe 3 to tie the game, UCLA went down the court and…you can finish the sentence. It was probably the most ‘infamous’ play of the season for the Bears, so if you don’t know what happened then you probably just weren’t watching.

I have most of the game on tape, but somehow ended up with the last 5 minutes of the game. We’ll be using this and this Youtube clip to break down what happened on Reeves Nelson’s final bucket to win the game. The angle’s pretty good, so you can see pretty clearly what goes on.

The stage is: Allen Crabbe has just hit a 3 pointer with 10 seconds left to tie the game at 84-84. UCLA risks going going to overtime with the Bears if they cannot score here. The ball has been inbounded to UCLA sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt

This image is of terrible quality, and I’m sorry for that, but the quality will get better later on. In this image, you can see (or maybe not) Tyler Honeycutt dribbling past halfcourt, with Jorge Gutierrez guarding him. A UCLA player is rising at the opposite wing, but there are 3 Bruins trailing behind the halfcourt line. This is clearly going to be Honeycutt’s shot to take, and no other Bruin is really a threat to win the game on the first effort.

A few seconds later, Tyler Honeycutt is fading away from the busket and taking a fadeaway jump shot for the win, closely contested by three Golden Bear defenders. The other 4 Bruins are sitting around the three point line, none of them inside of it except for the shooter. #22 (Reeves Nelson) is perhaps the furthest away, parked firmly in Jimmer Fredette range.

The shot is now on the rim, clearly not going to go in unless UCLA gets a fortuitous bounce. Three Bruins are now watching the ball, and Honeycutt’s fading shot has pulled him away from the basket. Four Golden Bears are all in the key area, all watching the ball rattle around the rim. None of them see Nelson slink in to the key, charging the hoop in hopes of a quick put-back to win the game. The box out was either Allen Crabbe’s (#23) or Richard Solomon’s (#25), but now the sole responsibility falls on Solomon, who currently has Nelson parked right behind him.

Nelson has blown by Solomon, and now has a clear path to the rebound. If the ball goes to the left side of the hoop, then Nelson will have an uncontested chance at a hurried lay-up. If it goes to the right, then the ball will likely bounce harmlessly away or into the hands of Gutierrez (#2). With Nelson already in the air, Solomon has no real chance of stopping him short of fouling him in mid-air.

Nelson has hands on the ball and is in the process of tipping it in. Solomon, who had been transfixed to the ball, has made an effort to jump and snatch the ball, but it’s far too late and Nelson has already beaten him. The only intrigue left is if Nelson can tip the ball off the glass and in. A Golden Bear has yet to touch a Bruin since the ball has gone up, with nobody boxing out. I won’t show the final image of Nelson scoring, in order to spare your poor soul.

Cal wasn’t too bad on the offensive glass last year, ranking 5th in the conference at limiting opposing offensive rebounds, so the lack of boxing out obviously wasn’t a problem run rampant all year. There’s still room to improve for the rebounding, clearly, but it’s not like this team had a malaise of letting teams rebound all over them. The issue here is most likely the lack of experience. A pair of freshmen (Crabbe and Solomon) went up against a player who had started for two years (Nelson) in a key situation, and the results showed the lack of experience on the Bears’ squad. A veteran squad knows that with the game on the line little things like boxing out take the utmost importance. I’d be willing to bet that the mistake won’t be repeated this year by these now sophomores, and that’s because this team grew and learned from their mistakes last year. It’s this kind of play that gives players learning opportunities, not the shots they make or the victories on the court.

I’m sorry for making you relive that awful night, but lessons were learned that night, lessons that will prove key to the youth’s development. First of all: BOX OUT! Second of all: don’t get caught watching in a crucial situation late in the game. It’s lessons like these that will play a big part on the squad you’ll be seeing this year, and how they perform in late-game situations. We may have more Film Study as the summer drags on and we get closer to the regular season. Go Bears!