I guess we have to keep waiting for UCLA to play a full 40 minutes. Despite some atrocious refereeing in the first half, the Bruins showed mental toughness, composure, smart play and the energy necessary to get wins on the road in the Pac-10. Then the second half started and the Bruins are horrific in every sense, allowing a terrible Arizona St. team to make a comeback, force overtime and bring the topic of refereeing back into the discussion, when it should never be for the Bruins in this type of game.
The simple fact is that UCLA came away winners. With the program and this team in the place they are, we are in no position to complain about how the Bruins come away with wins. We're not picky about wins and we take what we can get. That said, the amazing lack of executing the most basic of basketball plays in the second half was simply astounding and forced the Bruins to have to play an overtime. Credit to UCLA in that extra period though, where they showed some mental toughness to bounce back and pick up the 73-72 win over the Sun Devils. Here's the box score, where Jones' 18 points, six boards and four assists on 7-9 shooting is the highlight.
The Bruins did everything in their power to lose the game and if you want to point out all of the lazy turnovers, missed box outs, slow rotations or miscommunications on defense, you wouldn't be far off in saying that the Bruins didn't deserve to win the game. That said, in addition to the mental toughness they flashed in overtime, they put together a very good first half and made a couple good plays in the second half that let them get to overtime.
It was clear from the tip that this wasn't going to be the same UCLA team we've seen all season based on personnel alone. Reeves Nelson was starting at the five and the Bruins went to three guards with Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee all playing. Two questionable calls (at best) put Lee on the bench quickly, but the Bruins showed great resolve in locking down on defense despite their best defender sitting on the bench. They looked like a mature and cohesive basketball team.
That look changed in the second half when they were beat all over the court. if ASU wasn't the worst team in the conference the Bruins wouldn't have survived, but luckily for them, the Sun Devils are. Most concerning of it all was the Bruins inability to box out. The turnovers have been a Bruin staple. Slow rotations? Might as well call them part of the UCLA defense. Not being able to put a body on an opponent on free throws is beyond inexcusable and two key puts backs off of free throws almost doomed the Bruins.
If an inability to box out on free throws was most concerning, Josh Smith's benching for much of the second half and overtime was most perplexing. While ASU has been killed by bigs all year and the Bruins couldn't get it done on the boards, Smith was sitting. Some have said this was a punishment for walking back on defense while the Sun Devils scored, but even that reasoning is curious. Had Smith been sat down for 10 minutes, the message would have been sent, but Smith sat the remainder of the game. More puzzling is Howland's decision to bench a player for walking back on defense now. I would have to use up nearly all my fingers to count the number of guys that have pulled the same thing in the last two years and it's gone unpunished so why the selective punishment now? Curious at best and maybe it had nothing to do with punishing Smith for walking back on defense, but it will be interesting to see what CBH has to say about it after the game.
To call the win undeserved would be a bit of an overstatement, but it's not too far off and with two HUGE games coming up next week that could very well determine our NCAA tournament chances, these types of performances won't cut it. For today though, it'll do. It's your post-game thread so have at it.