Bruin Bites: A Toss-Up Close To The Season

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

UCLA Basketball news as the Bruins head to Palo Alto to face a Stanford team coming off of a loss to Just SC.

Well that was an ugly Thursday night for the Bruins. We have blogged plenty in the wake of that game, and now it is time to switch gears to this afternoon's game against Stanford and the final weeks of the season. Some notes as you prepare to (not watch) today's game, and/or ride the train down to Palo Alto this morning with me.

Jack Wang shared one brutal note about the season outlook at the Inside UCLA Blog:

Meanwhile, UCLA is slipping close to another embarrassing milestone: finishing with a worse conference record than USC for the first time since Ben Howland’s first season in Los Angeles.

... For what it’s worth, Ken Pomeroy currently has UCLA losing three more games — Stanford, USC, Arizona — finishing at 11-7 for the second straight year. However, the latter two games are almost statistical coin-flips: the Bruins have a 48 percent chance of beating the Trojans and 44 percent of beating the Wildcats...

Pomeroy’s numbers-crunching only gives UCLA more than a 57 percent chance at winning one game — ASU, pegged right now at 75 percent. Basically, the rest of the season is a toss-up.

Including today, 4 of our final 6 games are on the road (including a game at Pauley east), but that does not excuse the fact that per Pomeroy, the Bruins are clear favorites in just one game. And with times getting toughest, the Bruins' one constant - their ability to score - has started to fail them.

The Bruins shot 37.7 percent Thursday in a 76-63 loss at California and were barely better than 30 percent in the first half. Prior to the recent five-game shooting slump, UCLA shot less than 40 percent only one time this season -- Nov. 13 against UC Irvine in the second game of the season.

But the Bruins have now shot their three lowest percentages of the season during the past five games: 33.3 percent against Washington, 34.7 percent against Arizona State and 37.7 percent against Cal. A 38.2 percent performance against USC was the fifth-lowest.

With an wounded offense comes a blow to the team's pride, per Wang. Looking back at the Cal game for a moment, Howland noted the effect of the crowd on Thursday night.

"They really came out and jumped on us, took advantage," Howland said of the Bears. "The crowd was great. I thought we got a little flustered by that and started pressing offensively instead of slowing down and being patient."

Good thing that the Bruins don't have to worry about those pesky away crowds anymore. Oh right, 4 more must-win true road games..

Scott Wolf has some news on Lane Kiffin's latest coaching move, the post-Signing Day firing of his offensive coordinator, Kennedy Polamalu.

Polamalu, who couldn't be reached for comment, spent the month of January recruiting while the coaching staff started changing.

... Sources said Polamalu didn't realize he was in trouble until an administrator called him on national signing day (Feb. 6) and told him not to attend a recruiting dinner held at the Galen Center that night.

Two days later, Polamalu found out he was fired when he read reports on the Internet. Kiffin never called him and still hasn't spoken to him regarding his dismissal, sources said.

A former Pacific-12 Conference coach who knows Kiffin and Polamalu said Kiffin probably felt "threatened" by his sometimes outspoken assistant.

"(Kiffin) knew Kennedy was a no-nonsense guy and saw through the way things are done and isn't afraid to speak up," the coach said. "So he made a change.

The article goes on to cite Petros describing him as the best coach on the Southern Cal staff while being confused by the "ultimate self-inflicted wound" created by Kiffin. A bunch of folks, including several current players and at least one incoming commit gathered for a farewell meal for Polamalu a few days ago. At least Kiffin seems to have united the trogan family.

Peter Yoon's ESPNLA preview of this afternoon's game is here, and the Official Site's preview is also available here. Tip off is scheduled for 1pm, with Bill Walton again on the airwaves for ESPN2.

GO BRUINS!

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