The point of a basketball roundup is not to interject our opinions but give a roundup of the stories. However, the stories could not have any more different of a feel then the stories today talking about UCLA 65-63 win over Texas Yesterday. There is the vision in a couple of UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero "smiling and beaming" or the images of a proud program reduced to a joke.
On the latter the LA Times rare very good reporter Baxter Holmes writes in a story perfectly entitled "In a Comical Game, UCLA Gets the Last Laugh":
The game was nationally televised on ESPN, but it was more suited for Comedy Central.
. . ."They didn't beat us," said Texas Coach Rick Barnes, whose team dropped to 5-4. "We gave this one away."
. . .It also could've been deemed "cruel and unusual punishment" for any basketball purist who tuned in, but UCLA will take any win it can get these days, no matter how hideous.
But wait it gets worse. For those who thought the crowd at the Wooden Classic or the Exhibition game was bad, wait to you see what happens when you play in a football stadium. Headlines include USA Today's Photos: Bare naked gym in UCLA-Texas game or as Yahoo described it with the headline Struggling UCLA and Texas play inside a nearly empty Reliant Stadium:
Whatever the record is for empty seats at a college basketball game, UCLA and Texas may have smashed it Saturday.
The two high-profile programs agreed during the offseason to play at 43,000-seat Reliant Stadium when the Bruins were supposed to be a top 15 team and the Longhorns were expected to be a Big 12 contender. Since both teams have failed to meet expectations so far this season and both basketball fan bases are notoriously fickle, an announced crowd of only 2,797 people attended UCLA's 65-63 victory - and reporters on hand insist that figure may have been generous.
But there was someone who was ecstatic with the performance. UCLA.edu rewrote the AP headline and took out the crowd number in a story entitled: "UCLA Defeats Texas in Thrilling Fashion, 65-63." Of course, this was because of the Athletic Department leader Chianti Dan Guerrero who may have been drinking a bit too much as he was very impressed with the game. In a story entitled "No need to give up on UCLA just yet" written by
the UCLA Athletic Department some behind kisser at ESPN, Chianti Dan is seen:
Thankfully, athletic director Dan Guerrero was smiling. Beaming, actually.
"That was huge," Guerrero, his cheeks rosy with excitement, said as he shook Howland's hand. "That was huge."
A few years ago, a 65-63 victory over a struggling Texas team wouldn't be cause for much celebration in Westwood. But not much is going right for the Bruins these days.
I tend to focus on the last paragraph. We are excited about beating a team that cannot make a layup?! This is not the Gonzaga win Dan, this does not even make up for the Cal Poly loss.
But we are "mean." However, I think the players did play a few minutes here and there showed that the expectations are not unreasonable and a good coach could take this team far. The player of the game was Jordan Adam, the least recruited of the #1 freshman class:
Turning point: Along with forcing a tie, Adams' second "and-one" lay-up with 1:15 remaining gave UCLA a huge boost of confidence and energy while putting Texas on its heels. The the Longhorns played tight the rest of the game.
Player of the game: Adams continues to outshine his more highly-touted freshmen teammates, Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. Adams scored 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting. He also pulled down seven rebounds. Adams entered the game averaging a team-high 17.8 points
Kyle Anderson remains the hardest player I have ever watched at UCLA to figure out. He carried UCLA in the first half with 9 points and 6 rebounds. Then he only had two points and 0 rebounds in the second half. However, he was amazing on defense in the last two minutes, something that everyone outside Texas overlooked:
With Texas leading by six as the clock approached the two-minute mark, freshman point guard Javan Felix had the ball stolen from him by Kyle Anderson.
. . .
Then Longhorn guard Sheldon McClellan (12 points) had a driving shot blocked by the 6-foot-9 Anderson, and UCLA turned that into a three-point play by Adams that tied the game at 61 with 1:15 left. Adams scored after retrieving a missed shot by teammate Larry Drew II.
. . .
Anderson then stole the ball from Felix again, leading to a UCLA free throw and a one-point lead with 47 seconds left.
. . .
Anderson blocked a forced shot by Felix 16 seconds later. Anderson finished what he started with a layup, and now Texas faced a three-point deficit and had 22 seconds to tie the game.
Anderson, supposedly a lousy defender, had two steals and two blocks in the last three minutes. He literally stopped every Texas possession. I realize Texas is a bad offensive team but that was an incredible stretch for any player on defense.
Which goes to a different point, that game announce Dick Vitale made during the game, these Freshman can play and contribute now. Adams is the best shooter Howland has had. Shabazz Muhammad is the highest ranked recruit Howland has had. And Anderson may be the most unique payer UCLA has ever had. (Please note I did not say best, just unique.) It is up to a coach to get them to play to their abilities for 40 minutes. For as Howland said:
Until Saturday, when three freshmen took charge in the final minute and won a game. A baby step, to be sure. But a step nonetheless.
"They came out and competed," Howland said. "They showed me they wanted it."
Howland any coach should be able to get more out of the freshman class. You should be fired for what has gone on the last four years. But get this team to dominate a weak Pac 12 and make a deep tourney run and shut us up. On the other hand, Dan Guerrero it is your decision to keep this embarrassment going and even "smile" about it. If you keep your star hooked to Howland so closely, you should come down at the end of the year as well
when if Howland fails.