We are now officially in the "don't challenge the Bruins time." For those who thought the last 12 minutes against Cal Poly was the worse or the game against USC, we had the worst first half of the season for the Bruins on national TV against Cal:
UCLA is playing its worst basketball of the season, and is down 47-22 at the half against Cal. The win over Washington State now looks like an illusion cast by the Cougars' own ineptitude, as the Bruins' offense is again finding new lows. Barring an insanely hot-shooting second half, they'll finish below 40 percent from the field for the fourth time in five games.
The Bears are crushing UCLA in just about every statistical category. Cal has four players in double figures; UCLA doesn't have one with more than six points. Cal has 24 rebounds to UCLA's 14; 26 points in the paint to UCLA's 10; 8 second-chance points to four; 10 points off turnovers to two.
The Bruins are shooting 30.3 percent while Cal just can't miss (58.8). The last time UCLA shot below 30 percent was during a 65-55 loss to USC on March 13, 2009 - one in which the sixth-seeded Trojans bounced the second-seeded Bruins.
Yep, this team has officially come apart and all indications are it is going to get uglier. For this is not an aberration at this point but a trend. The team can't shoot anymore.
Stat of the game: The Bruins shot 37.7 percent for the game -- the third-lowest shooting performance for UCLA this season. They have failed to shoot better than 40 percent in four of their past five games. Also, Cal outrebounded UCLA 41-33. The Bruins have been outrebounded 299-236 over the past seven games.
While most are focusing on the Bruins inability to rebound or defend inside, the team can't shoot anymore either. This is their death kneel. Remember the Missouri game? UCLA got out rebounded and dominated inside but UCLA overcame that by shooting over 50%. Now the Bruins can't shoot, rebound, or play defense. Of course some of the players make excuses. Shabazz had his best rebounding game as a Bruin (a sign of effort), so we will listen to him try:
But against Cal (15-9, 7-5), freshman Shabazz Muhammad said, it wasn't just a slow start from the field. It was a lack of intensity - a problem that has proved to be UCLA's demise on several occasions.
"I just think our intensity (was different)," said Muhammad, who finished with 13 points and a career-high 11 rebounds. "The first half we came out and I don't know where our heads were at. Guys weren't rebounding. We weren't playing defense at all. They got off to a really fast start, and we tried to pick it up in the second half. You just can't play like that. That's what happens."
Muhammad came out with a head of steam to start the second half, scoring the Bruins' first five points and seven of their first 12. But with each desperate attempt to come back, Cal answered, dominating in the post and keeping UCLA at arm's length, despite being outscored by 12 points in the second half.
No. Again this is not one game. This is four out of five. The exception was a bad Washington State team. Howland was both honest and trying to make to take anything good from the game, the shooting of Larry Drew II and the hustle of Shabazz in the second half were good. But the bottom line and the spin.
But Coach Ben Howland said it best.
"It's a bad loss for us," Howland said.
The first half was "horrible," Howland said. The second half, he said, the Bruins showed "character."
Translation: The Bruins were blown out so thoroughly and so quickly that grasping silver linings became important as they trudge forward to play Stanford on Saturday.
I realize Class of 66 has long advocated firing Howland now. His case is strong. But Ben is gone. In some ways to me the villain in this piece is AD Dan Guerrero. Why did Dan let Ben stay? Why did Dan not firing him after Cal Poly, San Diego or USC (we had an 8 day break after that game)? I can only hope that it is because Dan Guerrero is tied to Ben now and they are both gone after the season.
For the rest of the season, Jack Wang has the Bruins summed up right (bold mine).
UCLA basketball is clearly set on one task: to make choosing its worst game as hard as possible.
The Bruins' 76-63 loss at Cal probably doesn't beat out their early-season faceplant to Cal Poly, but it belongs in the conversation. UCLA was unsightly through the first half, going without a free throw and - until the final minutes of the period - nearly being outscored by the Bears' star swingman Allen Crabbe. Before the break, the Bruins shot a hair above 30 percent and trailed by as much as 28.
Ben Howland and his players constantly acknowledge that they need to hit the boards harder, hold their blockouts longer. Rarely is an explanation given other than lack of effort or focus. Yet, UCLA was abused on the glass by forwards Richard Solomon and David Kravish - both wiry specimens who aren't listed above 235 pounds. The pair combined for 21 rebounds and 35 points, with Kravish scoring a career-high 18.
Cal finished with a 41-33 edge on the boards, the sixth time in seven games that UCLA has trailed by at least eight rebounds. The Bears, who entered the game relying on Crabbe and point guard Justin Cobbs for over 50 percent of their scoring output, dominated the Bruins with 46-20 points in the paint. . . .
On the bright side for UCLA fans ... oh, I don't know. Baseball starts tomorrow?
Bye Bye Ben. Go UCLA Baseball! And go somewhere else Dan Guerrero.