Coach John Wooden attended Pauley Pavilion today in honor of Senior Day and celebrating the 40th anniversary of his 1970 national championship team. I don't know how many more of these games Coach will be able to attend in Westwood and I was hoping that Ben Howland and his basketball team (13-15, 8-8 Pac-10) would be aware of that fact when they took John and Nell Wooden Court. Well looks like they didn't as they went on to put together another ugly and disgraceful first half and ended up losing the game because of yet another brutally mismanaged game by Ben Howland.
Oregon Ducks (14-14, 6-10 Pac-10) eked out a win on Senior Day by a score of 70-68. Here is the box score. It was a game the Bruins should have won but basically choked it away down the stretch due to several questionable (and I am being charitable) coaching moves by Howland. Let's see going into this game we talked about how we couldn't afford to make the same mistakes we made last game, when we hurried things up and took 33 3 point shots. Well what did we do to come out of the gate? We came out taking 7 3 point shots in our first 8 attempts. Either Howland did a horrific job of preparing this team or the team basically tuned him out. Either option is not pleasant. We ended up taking 26 3 point shots, making only 8. Ducks went up by 12 in the first half against a totally lifeless Bruin team (embarrassing the four letters right in front of Coach), and ended with a 41-31 lead.
Bruins made a run with the effort of Tyler Honeycutt, Michael Roll, Brendan Lane, and Malcolm Lee in the second half but it wasn't enough as Howland's unreal decisions to stick with Nikola Dragovic and Jerime Anderson in crunch time cost us the game. (more on that after the flip). While Nikola Dragovic and Jerime Anderson were the obvious culprits on the floor, it was Howland mismanagement that cost us a win on Senior Day, in front of Coach Wooden. This is not the first time Howland's coaching has cost us a game this season. Lane's performance and Bobo/Moser's absence from the game (2 mins for Bobo, 0 for Moser) while 34 minutes for the worst "power" forward in post Wooden era history of UCLA basketball should raise more damaging questions about how Howland has mismanaged the entire season.
Ben Howland is not going anywhere in the near future and we don't want him to. However, the duration of time he gets to fix the mess he has created is finite. His mea culpa and meaningless post game apologies are not going to mean much rest of this season. He needs to take definitive steps to solve the deep problems that have brought down this program. It starts with putting together a staff, which will be able to point out to him the obvious needed adjustments apparent to rest of the world, and also put together a strategic approach to recruiting by bringing in the right kind of talent in Westwood (who will commit to defense and team basketball). Some quick details after the jump.
Let's start with the elephant in the room as in Howland's Matt Barkley. Nikola Ragovic apparently tweaked his ankle during layup drills (!) and came out put together perhaps his ugliest first half (quiet an accomplishment for him) of his UCLA careering with 0 points and 0 rebounds. Yet Howland rewarded him with 18 minutes, basically sending a clear signal to Bobo Morgan that perhaps he should be considering transferring somewhere else.
Dragovic's first half performance was ugly enough that Howland finally discovered the Earth was round and perhaps he ought to start Brendan Lane, who was having a productive first half (despite getting yanked right after his first turnover). Lane put together another great game on a sore ankle, scoring 8 rebounds and 5 rebounds in 23 minutes.
With Lane in Bruins made their run in the second half and closed it within 8 at 41-33. That is when Tyler Honeycutt picked up his 4th foul and Howland inserted you know who. Immediately the Ducks went on a run to push the lead up to 49-35. Again, Howland didn't even bother considering trying out either Bobo or Moser for Tyler. He was also letting Jerime Anderson getting shredded time after time by Tajuan Porter, forgetting that he had some kid name Mustafa Abdul-Hamid on the bench, who has done at least an average job (all we are looking for our points guards these days is an ‘average' effort) this season.
Yet despite Howland's less than mediocre coaching effort the Bruins made another run closing the game within 3 - 62-65 - with 3.34 left in the game. At that point we all thought if Howland really wanted to win the game he would put in Brendan Lane, who was perhaps having the best game of his freshmen career, and also put in Abdul-Hamid, who hasn't proven to be a disaster in closing minutes ala Jerime Anderson. Yet for inexplicable reasons Howland stuck with Ragovic and Anderson, and the Bruins went on to choke away another game by imploding down the stretch. Couple of ugly turnovers by Anderson essentially sealed the game for Ducks.
As mentioned up top Brendan Lane was one of the silver linings of today's dispiriting effort at Pauley. The man of the game for Bruins was none other than Tyler Honeycutt, who put together another great game with 4 points, 13 assists and 9 rebounds. Michael Roll had a great senior day with 25 points, while Malcolm Lee chipped in with a tenacious 18 points. It's too bad all of their effort was wasted by their head coach. I will let you take it from here.