UCLA begins the second half of the PAC 12 season tonight against Washington at 6:05 on ESPN with Bill Walton doing color commentary. I wonder what Walton will say on UCLA's quest to win the PAC 12 being alive despite losing three of the last four, including to justSC.
"We're right back in there," freshman forward Shabazz Muhammad said. "The SC loss was so disappointing for us and we were all down and then when we see these other teams starting to lose, we're like we can be right back in first place."
For now, however, the Bruins are thankful that they are only one game out of first place despite losing three of their last four games, including that overtime loss to USC last Wednesday.
Not sure Shabazz is going to be a 100%. As was noted:
UCLA leading scorer Shabazz Muhammad, still suffering from flu-like symptoms, sat out of practice Tuesday but is expected to play Thursday against Washington, coach Ben Howland said.
. . .Howland said Muhammad had a chest X-ray and blood work done "to rule out anything that might be beyond normal" but figures it's simply a case of Muhammad needing to get his appetite back. Muhammad is down about nine or 10 pounds.
"The trainer told him last night, 'Make sure you go out and eat a good meal,' and he went out and had sushi," Howland said. "I don't know that sushi was filling enough for him because he said he ate a lot of it. We're now being very specific about what to eat to get enough nutrition."
Shabazz was earlier in the season too heavy, now he is too light? Just part of the roller coaster of this season. As Jack Wang writes:
The Trojans' upset last week did more than hand the Bruins back-to-back losses for the first time all season; it might have sapped all the momentum out of Ben Howland's young team.
Some tried to chalk up the loss as a minor step back, but the 75-71 overtime decision likely put once-surging UCLA (16-6, 6-3) back on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
"It was probably a reality check more than anything, that any night you could get beat," forward Travis Wear said. "We were playing well. We had a little win streak going (before losing three of four). It definitely hurts your confidence a little bit. I think it helps us now because it helps us refocus going . . .
They'll start today by trying to knock off Washington. The visiting Huskies (13-9, 5-4) have struggled even more, losing four straight before upsetting Arizona State in their last game.
Of course, UW does have the sort of big men that have given the Bruins trouble in Aziz N'Diaye and recently hot Shawn Kemp Jr. But more than what UW can do, are UCLA's self-inflicted problems :
Word on the street is out: Larry Drew II and Kyle Anderson can't shoot and the UCLA Bruins can't rebound.
At least that's the word USC and Arizona State swore by when they used very similar defensive strategies to upset the Bruins the past two games. The Trojans and Sun Devils both sagged off of Drew and Anderson, daring each player to shoot the ball while focusing defensive efforts on shutting down leading scorers Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams and crowding the paint to get rebounds.
. .. Muhammad put the blame on himself. He's averaging a mere 4.8 rebounds per game and hasn't had more than six in a game since Jan. 5. He has averaged 4.25 over the past four games.
"I think I can average about 10 rebounds," Muhammad said. "We really need to step it up on the rebounding and I think I need to really take initiative in doing that. It's just a habit. You have to go for the rebound every time and sometimes I find myself trying to get out on the break and we don't have the ball, so that's one thing I have to concentrate on is going in to grab that rebound."
I think it is great of Muhammad to say those things. I think these are a bunch of good kids. It is more up to Howland to make the pieces work and not put the players in position to fail, such as when Kyle began the year as a wing. Fortunately for Howland, Romar is not a brilliant strategist.
However, Romar does well at home generally in part because of an AD that is not working against him. Thanks again Dan Guerrero for hurting students and the team at Pauley:
Pauley Pavilion has the student section cut in two - half on the floor, half in the rafters.
"Most of our students are at the top," guard Jordan Adams said. "Our students should be at the bottom so they can mess with the other team's players or wave arms behind free throws."
So as we watch the camera face away from the students tonight, thank Dan. As we watch free throws into a dead section of fans, thank Dan.