Zeek Jones led the Bruins with 17 points but the Bruins still fell short to a mediocre Arizona team. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
This afternoon, with their NCAA hopes on the line, U.C.L.A. faced one of the worst Arizona teams in memory, and they still couldn't match up. The Bruins showed why they ultimately did not deserve to win this game and this tournament, and why this entire season was a disappointing underachievement. They shot poorly from the floor and the FT line, they made silly mistakes on offense and couldn't shut down the opposition on defense, they could not execute fast breaks, they got outworked, they didn't adjust to game situations, key players were no-shows, and the Bruins did not play smartly. The box score and stats can be seen here.
The first half was ugly for both teams, with U.C.L.A. out-uglying the standard to a halftime deficit of 29-23. The Bruin offense out of sync in the entire first half. They made little effort to get the ball inside and when they did the entry passes were intercepted, and they shot poorly from outside. For the half, the Bruins shot only 35%, made a single 3 pt basket, and shot only 3 FTs. Worst was the Bruins' 10 turnovers. Zeek was throwing up wild shots, going 1 for his first 8, and still led the team at half with a mere 6 points. The Bruins were fortunate that AZ matched them in turnovers and only shot 39% themselves. Both teams showed why the Pac-12 may only get a single team in the Tournament come Sunday. That kept U.C.L.A. in the game, as the Bruins were only down by 6 and had an opportunity to take control of the second half and advance.The second half was marginally better basketball, but U.C.L.A. was ultimately killed by the lack of basketball smarts. While Sean Miller made real time adjustments, Howland showed his inability to do the same by not designing a defense to keep Josh in the game, or extend his bench when the refs went foul-happy, or focus the offense on the hot hand. Travis Wear was hot early on offense, but the team did not feed him. Josh picked up his 3rd foul 5 minutes in, and was left in the game. Arizona was smart and went right at him on the next possession and got him to commit his 4th.
With no dominant presence inside for the Bruins, AZ attacked the rim. The SPTR's went to work and started calling fouls on virtually every possession. Josh came back in at with 11:26 left and predictably fouled out 23 seconds later. Trailing by 6 at that time, the Bruins actually rallied a bit with dribble penetration on the offensive end and took the lead at 46-45, but could not hold it from there. AZ got to the foul line repeatedly while the thin Bruins got in foul trouble. For the game, the Cats were 31-36 from the charity stripe, while the Bruins were only 10-16.
Thus ends a truly disappointing season for a team that was ranked in the top-20 preseason. Sure, preseason rankings are a bit of a crapshoot, but I wonder how many of those projections were off by 50. Now, the Bruins will wait to see if they get an invite to the NIT. We will be discussing this season at length in the days ahead. For now, the fact that we are thinking about the NIT says just how big a failure this season was.