Phew. Bruins give the entire Bruins Nation a collective heart attack in the closing mins but hold on to beat a tough Arizona State by a score of 72-70. Here is the box score. I will take the heart stopping win, however, I have to say right now I have a weird feeling that is a mixture of relief and disgust what took place in the last few mins on the court. On one hand I feel relieved because some Bruins such as Malcolm Lee, Reeves Nelson and even Jerime Anderson showed a lot of heart in those closing moments to hold off a hard charging Sun Devils. At the same time, I am still disgusted by the bonehead performance of Nikola Dragovic, who through his consistent dumb plays pretty much negated the 12-15 mins of offensive glory he enjoyed this entire season.
Yes, the Bruins got off to a great start thanks to once in a blue moon shooting from Dragovic who masqueraded as someone else in the opening mins of the first half. Drago connected in first few of his three point shots, getting a false sense of confidence of his ability as a basketball player, which hurt us later in the second half. Anyway, in the first half Bruins looked like a top-25 basketball team which used precision passing to rip and smart shots to rip apart ASU's vaunted zone that has given us a lot of trouble over the years. At the same time they showed their own version of an effective 2-3 zone frustrating the entire ASU team except for Rihards Kuksiks, who seemed to be matching Dragovic for shot for shots. Bruins raced to a 42-31 lead at half time which could have been bigger if not for some careless turnovers early on.
Then it got ugly real fast in the second half thanks to an uninspiring and boneheaded efforts from all of our seniors. James Keefe who had played a solid first half early on committed a stupid foul on three point attempts, Mike Roll was committing dumb turnovers on his own end, while Dragovic reverted to his usual form of jacking up dumb shots, looking lost on defense and making boneheaded plays almost costing us at the end.
We were bailed out at the end because of some tough defense by Malcolm Lee and what I thought was a pretty inspiring effort by Reeves Nelson and Jerime Anderson. Malcolm Lee finished with 16 points while Andersen finished with 10 points, 6 assists and just 2 TOs. He did miss a FT towards the end but he was more clutch on the line than anyone else including Michael Roll who missed another crucial one on one just like he did against Cal State Fullerton.
On one hand there are lot of encouraging takeaways from this game. Our effort in first half was a thing of beauty. And I am not talking about those 3 point shots. I am talking about the effort we showed on the defensive end and the tenacity we showed in how we attacked ASU's zone. It was encouraging to see Howland adjusting his defensive philosophy to fit the talent and skills of his team. It was cool to see Lee and Honeycutt using their long arms and height to confuse and befuddle the ASU offense.
On the other hand it was discouraging to see the seniors fail to show any modicum of leadership in the crucial minutes. While boneheaded basketball is Dragovic's hallmark at this point, it was particularly disappointing to see lack of composure from well coached players such as Roll and Keefe. I am hoping these guys will get back in the gym and work to address the tentative effort we saw in the second half. I think it's clear that we might have the ingredients to put together a decent season. The question is whether we will see it on a consistent basis for the entire 40 mins game after game.
Still not a bad way to bring in the New Year in Bruins Nation. We get a huge bowl win and start the Pac-10 season with a W. Hope we can run the win streak to 4 on Saturday. Happy New Year everyone. Fire away in our post game thread.