That may have been the ugliest game of the year. As the usually biting Vincent Bonsignore wrote:
The Bruins sleep-walked through most of the afternoon, their ultimate survival in a 55-40 win relying more on the Trojans' ineptness than anything they did.
When is the last time you saw a team win by 15 points while making just 19 of 56 shots from the field?
Heck, when is the last time a team won by any margin while shooting 33.9 percent?
Hint: When the other team makes an even more absurdly low percentage of shots, that's when.
Like, for instance, the 28.8 percent the Trojans shot while connecting on an embarrassing 15 of 52 attempts.
But at least UCLA won this and beat USC three times this year. However keep in mind that this is a real bad SUC team.
The Trojans had won their first game of the tournament the four previous times they had played in it, including last year, when they reached the semifinals. But injuries that decimated the lineup and poor shooting doomed them throughout the season. They went 1-19 in their final 20 games, with their lone Pac-12 win coming against new league member Utah.
"This season was definitely tough," Wesley said. "Despite all these injuries we've had, today's game really hurt. Now we just have to start moving on.
"We lost to our rival UCLA three times. That can't happen."
While it is always nice to read about Trojans upset about losing to the Bruins, the game otherwise took on a surreal flavor. If UCLA is going to the Tourney they need to win four games in four days. Yet four of UCLA's starters played 30+ minutes against USC (including 38!! by Lazeric Jones). But even stranger was the Josh Smith situation. Smith was suspended for the first half:
Howland almost negated the Bruins' size advantage over the thin Trojans by benching sophomore center Joshua Smith for the first half for being four minutes late to the team bus, which traveled the short distance from the J.W. Marriott in L.A. Live to Staples Center, Smith actually beating the bus to the game on foot.
Howland said he took the bus two blocks to avoid running into drunk rowdy fans as has happened previous years. Josh accepted the punishment without complaint. But you have to wonder as Larry Brown wrote:
If this is the byproduct of the Sports Illustrated article, I'm not sure I like it. The whole idea was for Howland to become more aware and malleable, not to go around killing mosquitoes with cannonballs.
OVERVIEW: The early part of the game was among the ugliest basketball you will see. The teams started a combined 0-for-11 from the field and were a combined 7-for-37 with just over eight minutes to go in the half before the Trojans opened their 17-9 lead.
UCLA rallied back at the end of the first half, by making six of their last nine shots of the half during a 13-4 run that gave the Bruins a 22-21 halftime lead and momentum. Lazeric Jones, who led the Bruins with 15 points, scored five in the final 3:35 of the first half.Travis Wear, who had 12 points and eight rebounds for the Bruins, scored four points during that half-ending surge.
TURNING POINT: Halftime. After UCLA made that late first-half run, USC scored the first points of the second half, but UCLA then went on a 17-2 run and took control of the game. . . .
"I think today starting out the way we did, I was proud," Howland said. "I don't think there was any sense of panic in our guys. I think that they showed a good resolve and toughness that we're going to get this going. Finally we did. That's what you have to have. It's never easy.
Not sure coach, USC is a really bad team. Which brings us to Arizona. Not a really bad team but a really good match up for UCLA:
Arizona's the smallest team in the conference, while the Bruins are by far the largest. Three of its four leading scorers come in at 6-foot-10, one of them being 305-pound monster Josh Smith. Arizona, on the flip side, starts a 6-foot-7 center and a 6-foot-6 power forward, and has struggled keeping opponents off the glass this season. . ..
Arizona snuck past UCLA on Feb. 25 in McKale Center to split the season series, but the game could have really gone either way, as the Bruins were a Jerime Anderson jump shot away from sending it to overtime.
. . .
While Arizona's perimeter defense is one of the best in the conference, UCLA operates in the paint more than any Pac-12 squad. The 28.1 percent the Wildcats allow opponents to shoot from 3-point range is almost negated by the fact that the Bruins attempted the second-fewest threes in the conference.
UCLA's size doesn't just give Arizona trouble on the defensive end, it limits them offensively as well. The UA shot only 38.3 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three in their last meeting, while connecting on only 36.2 percent from the floor and 17.6 percent from distance in their first matchup.
Arizona Wildcats point guard Josiah Turner is suspended again, which is a third strike.
Is he out?
At this point, the chance that Turner will never again wear the cardinal and navy (or special Nike "platinum") seems like a very real possibility. Coach Sean Milleron Wednesday put the freshman on indefinite suspension for a violation of team rules on the eve of Arizona's quarterfinal appearance in the Pac-12 tournament.
So, nice timing, Josiah.
Turner was a great talent who was under achieving playing for Arizona's Coach Miller. UCLA should do okay today except for the fact of being tired. You have to believe if it comes down to a close game again with the ball in a tired Anderson's hands, the advantage will be Arizona's. And people will again question Howland.