One of the knocks against Ben Howland is that he is stubborn and does not want to admit mistakes. Well last night, he did change and while I did not hear him admit it was a mistake, David Wear saw 0 minutes at the three or small forward spot. And guess what:
UCLA gave up only 11 points in the first half, the fewest since holding Florida International to 13 in 2008.
"Our team defense wasn't even close [at the beginning of the season] to what it is now," coach Ben Howland said.
Of course that was not the only change. While the Wears definitely played well, to me the key to the game was Norman Powell. Norman came in mid-way through the first half and helped key the big UCLA run:
It all culminated with a 20-2 run midway through the first half in which the Bruins built a 17-point lead. . . .
. . . Norman Powell and Jones also got untracked in the backcourt with both sinking 3-pointers in the second half and finishing the game in double figures. Powell finished with 10 points.
"Norm came off the bench and played well for us," Howland said.
Norm quickness and hops allows him to play defense at a different level. He had a nice dunk but and even better come from behind shot block.
While the defense was the key, the Wears played smarter on offense. David and Travis did not shoot any threes and played more inside. Travis at half time had six points and more importantly 10 rebounds, including 5 on offense. UCLA was out rebounding Pepperdine by 6 at half and Travis was a key to that effort.
Of course one win does not mean things are fixed. There were still problems. But I think CBH will not play David Wear at 3 anymore and will play Norman Powell more. He is showing he is not completely stubborn, after all he wants to win:
"Getting a win was very important," Coach Ben Howland said. "We were dying to get a win. We have to play with that kind of desire every time to be successful."
And for this game at least, the players understood that comes from playing hard on defense:
"It just goes to show if we play hard and do what we're supposed to do on defense, everything falls into place," David Wear said. "This is how we need to play going forward."