Norman Powell doing his best to live up to the last Bruin to wear #4
What is this feeling? If it's not crushing, soul wrenching disappointment, I don't really know how to feel after a UCLA Basketball game. As hard as it may be to believe, the Bruins finally got their first win against a Division 1 opponent in emphatic fashion, cruising to a 62-39 victory over Pepperdine.
For at least a half hour tonight, the Bruins finally played the way they're "supposed" to play. The Wears seemed to realize that chucking up every shot that comes their way isn't the best way to generate offensive flow. More importantly, Snorklin' Travis Wear had 10 rebounds at halftime. Read that again. I don't think he's had 10 rebounds total this year. If Travis is gonna get in there and mix it up, fight for rebounds, hustle, box out, quit chucking, and lose teeth like a true Bruin big man, then maybe we can say he's finally earning his starting spot. He didn't have any boards after halftime, but we'll give him some slack for that due to his unplanned dental work.
While keeping in mind that this is Pepperdine, and that they probably would have looked lost on offense even if we weren't there (we know that feeling, don't we?), the Bruin D did appear more active tonight. For at least this game, when opposing shooters were lining up jumpers, we at least had a Bruin in the same zip code as him.
The other story of the game was the Norman Powell show, displaying his athleticism on both ends of the floor and tossing in a couple of steals, a great block, and an assist to go with his 10 points. He looks far more comfortable than he did in his first few games. Amazing what can happen when you're not worried about getting the hook after every mistake. Powell playing more also changes our lineup options, helping us push the Wears back to where they belong; not at SF.
That said, Joshua Smith who was saddled in the first half with fouls, started the second half, and seemed to deflate all the momentum built up at the end of the first half. Fortunately Pepperdine is bad enough for that to not matter much. If it wasn't apparent before, his lack of aggressiveness and conditioning really hurts any lineup he's in. As much as we've complained about the Wears overall, they've been more effective than Smith, and that's not saying much. He used to be a +/- superstar last year. I'd be shocked if he was positive on the year right now. Combine that with Lazeric Jones' ability to destroy momentum at a moment's notice with an inexplicable turnover or bad shot selection, and we see that most of our potential lineups are actually more like minefields and we all just pray it doesn't blow up on us.
It's great that at least for this game, the Wears acted like Bruin bigs and not oversized 3s. It's one thing to do that against a small and rather unathletic team like Pepperdine. We will see if they maintain that mentality against Texas. There's more that could be said in the "needs improvement" column, but at least for one night, I want to be able to savor just a little bit of happiness over Bruin basketball. The way this team has played, we don't know how long that'll last.