Allow me to go down the memory lane for a bit. About 14 years ago, the Bruins were playing in a second round March Madness game against perhaps one of the best starting five ever assembled in college hoops. Yes, I am talking about that game against Fab-5. How many of you remember that game? The Bruins, led by sophomores O'Bannon and Edney, were the decided underdogs against the darlings of ESPN. But we came out smoking. Well, Ed'O came out SMOKING. He was dropping 3s and throwing down rim-rattling tomahawks. He was unconscious and he was on FIRE. IIRC he had something like 19 points in the first half. And then Jim Harrick happened to us. He sat down Ed O for a long stretch in the second half (I still remember Raftery wondering out loud why Ed O was on the bench during the second half). The Wolverines chipped away ... and then you know the rest. Bruins suffered one of the most painful losses I have ever witnessed during my years of following UCLA basketball.
After last night's loss, I had a tinge of that same feeling after that Sunday loss (right before Final's week) against Michigan. But here is the good news. After that devastating loss in 1993, we - the Bruins Nation - had an entire off-season to agonize over that stinging defeat. This time we are going to get over it much quicker as we have a huge game to prepare for in a matter of days. And also, this time, I don't believe it was coaching that lost us the game. As Luc stated (in Dohn's report), it was a matter of intensity that cost UCLA the game in second half.
Actually, it was towards the end of half when Stanford got a little momentum. Bruins went up by 17 points in the first half playing their trademark suffocating defense (they were savaging the Stanford guards around the parameter) and running precise sets during their half court offense. But then they relaxed (along with some of our fans) and let Stanford mount a 5-0 run to close out the second half. If you have the stomach to watch the game again, you will see how the Bruins didn't run down the shot clock in their last possession right before half time, taking a hurried shot, which allowed the Cards to go down on other end and drain a quick 3. Bruins had the (12 point) double digit lead but it was the Cardinals who had the momentum.
Now some mini observations from yesterday's game:
- I can accept the fact that Mata is not a good FT shooter. I can accept the fact the best we can accept from Mata (and also AA2) that he will be never really shoot consistently from the FT line. But I don't like how Westbrook is shooting only 48 percent from the FT line. I'd think Keefe can do much better than shooting 57 percent from the FT line. I am hoping for those kids it's just a matter of getting experience.
- Our guys really need to do a better job during offensive transition. They have been pretty good in their last few games. But last night they screwed up at least three fast breaks and botched them the same way they botched few of those during the Oregon games. Again it's a matter of staying focus and not getting complacent.
- We need more production out of Roll. Roll had only 2 points last night. He took only 4 shots, going 0-2 from the 3 point line. The kid thinks team first. But good things happen when he is more involved on offense. I think he may need to think about looking for more opportunities and shooting more.
- I think Ryan Wright is going to be good player before he finishes his career at UCLA (I say the same about all Howland scholarship players). But comeon Ryan - you have to use your head when you are in the game. Just don't know what he was thinking when he launched that ball back towards the center court after grabbing that offensive rebound.
- I will end with giving props to Shipp. Shipp had a very good game yesterday. He only had 9 points yesterday, but he also had 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 steals. That's the Shipp we remember from his freshman year, who was having an impact in all facets of game.
The trick for our us is to not get too emotional (hey kind of like AA even though I love AA's emotion) after every set back. As Bruin fan we often tend to over estimate our opponents and under estimate our own team. I know I am guilty of it myself.
So I am not going to lose too much sleep over last night's loss. Just like I wasn't all that worried after the Bruins got swept by the Huskies last year. Remember we did finish the regular season with 6 losses last season. We only have 2 so far (18-2). We will probably lose at least 2 more games before the Pac-10 tournament finishing the season around 14-4 (or we may do better). The bottom line for our player and coaches: they will have to figure out a way to sustain their intensity for an entire game. Again, I think our effort is there every game. We just need the intensity to match that effort. It is a difficult thing to do. That's the quality that makes champions out of programs. I do believe in our coaches and players. And I think they will make it happen.
I think our coaches and players will be fired up this Thursday night. They are going to take on a very good Oregon team, which is having a program defining season for Ernie Kent (and I like the fact that this season will keep Kent around longer). This season's Oregon team reminds me of the Huskies from last season. It's a team of veterans who have been around.
Bruins will need to now go down in that lock down mode after they did after the Southern Cal game last season. They can't get worried about the officiating about rest of the Pac-10 season. They just need to accept the fact they will have to play through inconsistent (or should I say incompetent?) officiating through rest of the Pac-10 games and just worry about their game. We are going to be all right. Onward.