Some Cold Perspective On A Fun/Emotional Night (For UCLA) In (A Half Empty) Pauley

I will keep hammering home the point about not losing perspective following the euphoria after last night's game. Let's reset the big picture again. With last night's win Bruins now have a record of 8-10 (3-3 in the Pac-10) with 3 games remaining in the first half of the Pac-10 conference. They will be a slight underdog in our next game against Washington State (at home). Right now no one has any clue how we are going to finish the first half of the conference season based on what we have seen in recent games because we still haven't seen a shred of consistency from this basketball team. So while I am feeling good over the short term exuberance from an emotional win, I can't really get excited for rest of the season based on what we have seen in previous 18 games.

Last night's win provided another feel good moment just like Michael Roll's buzzer beater did about two weeks ago.  However, last night's shot was not result of a lucky bounce. Mustafa was all clutch (thanks to a smart pass from Roll) and precise in the way he executed the shot (after faking out the Husky defender). He sounded like a coach (someone who studies the game) talking about his shot after the game:

"You know, and don't take this the wrong way, but I saw an interview a long time ago where Kobe Bryant was talking about the game-winners that he made," Abdul-Hamid said. "And he said that as an offensive player you know the clock. The defense doesn't because their back is to the goal. So I knew I had a little bit of time.

As mentioned last night he connected on another game winning buzzer beater earlier this season (even though it didn't count in the record books because it was in an exhibition game).  I think KSBruin and others have a convincing case at this point that Hamid should be getting lot more minutes from here on out and be regular part of our rotation even when Anderson comes back.

Hamid's productivity is evident not because of his buzzer beaters but how he is playing the game. He doesn't have the natural talent as some of his uber recruited backcourt mates, but he plays the game the way Howland wants this game to be played. He plays with passion and intensity on defense (despite being limited athletically) and more importantly he is patient and precise on offense. Ramona Shellburne has a good piece on Hamid on tWWL which details how Hamid typifies the quintessential student athlete at UCLA. Howland was emotional about Hamid yesterday following the game:

"I've never been happier for a player since I've been in coaching than I am for Mustafa," Coach Ben Howland said. "He's spent countless hours by himself, working on his shot. It's so rewarding and gratifying to have a kid like him in our program. You ask any player on our team and they will say no one works harder."

Wonder if that will translate into more minutes for Hamid even after Anderson fully recovers from his nagging injuries. Guess we will have to find out.

Just like that buzzer beating shot was not luck, neither was the way the Bruins won yesterday.  I think it was cool to see the Bruins not depend on once in a blue moon three point barrages from Ragovic and Roll's shooting to win the game. We won the game despite those guys collectively only attempting 4 shots from behind arc (not making any of them). Instead of depending on three point shots, we saw an offense that was being set up thanks to some great passing spear headed by Tyler Honeycutt's all around game.

While I came down hard on Nelson because of his post-game comment, he was once again instrumental in our win. His motor runs the entire game and he always comes at it. He does need to work on number of areas to improve his game and they are all obvious. He needs to work on his FT shooting, get stronger so that he can finish with easy dunks and layups down low, and also get better acclimated to playing defense because he does have lapses in our defensive scheme every now and then. Still he is only a freshman with lot of potential to improve in next couple of seasons.

It was also interesting to see Howland sticking with the 2-3 zone even though the Huskies were connecting in the first-half:

The Bruins opened the game in a 2-3 zone defense, forcing the Huskies to the perimeter, and Washington forced it right back at UCLA, hitting 14 of 24 first-half shots, including 6 of 12 3-pointers.

But Howland stuck with the zone and Washington went cold, scoring just eight points in the first 15 minutes of the second half and finishing the game in an 8-for-27 slump.

"We knew that it was a very difficult team for us to match up with man-to-man, so we were going to stay committed to the zone," said Howland, who admitted to praying about the game beforehand. "Even though they made the shots in the first half, I told the kids at halftime that they can't stay that hot - `Keep working hard, and it will get better.' "

Again, while I like hearing that from Coach Howland, it just makes me wonder what would have happened if we tried it out earnestly against Arizona at Pauley. Seems like a huge blown opportunity to me.

Speaking of opportunities Brendan Lane and Mike Moser combined for 2 minutes of playing time in yesterday's game.  Just have to wonder why Howland was not intent on red-shirting them along with Anthony Stover, if they were never going to get meaningful minutes this season. Doesn't make a lot of sense to me.

I just can't get all that hopefully about last night's win being some kind of "turning point" this season. As mentioned repeatedly, we beat a mediocre basketball team with serious athletic talent. I'd be surprised if they don't pummel us with a double digit win in Seattle (and I am sure SPTRs will make sure they get to the line 25 more times on their home court). Just like Cal, I think their guys came into this game extremely confident following our back to back disgraceful performances against Stanford and Southern Cal.

Do we have enough left in our tank to win against Washington State and then beat less athletically talented opponents up in Oregon? We don't really know.

It is nice to revel in the moment. However, at the same time I can't help thinking about the big picture. Despite another encouraging Thursday night thanks to a ultra mediocre Pac-10 conference, right now I am still not seeing any consistent signs of hope for rest of the season.

Thankfully we have football recruiting to follow for few weeks.

GO BRUINS.

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