My old college roommate attended the Arizona game with me on Thursday night. For over twenty years, he has watched UCLA play, and heard my always optimistic take on the team. So, in making his first appearance to an Alford game, he was shocked by what came out of my mouth. "Boy, they look pretty good," he said early. "It's only the first half, " I replied. "They're playing really well," he later added. "Wait until the second half," I responded. "This is anyone's game" - him. "I'll believe it when I see it in the second half" - me. And it went mostly according to play (except when Miller thought he was Ben Howland in the last five minutes and our team actually found some tenacity, almost overcoming the large hole they created).
So, after last night's "game" (I'm not sure what that was in the second half - thanks, refs), I was curious if the numbers agreed with what we've all seen with our eyes. The cream puffs on our schedule ('$c included) offer nothing of value, so I focused on our toughest opponents. I first looked at who currently is over .500 (this knocked out Alabama). Then, I looked at RPI, and included all the teams that were ranked in the top 100 (that knocked out Moorehead St., Chatanooga and Nevada). As mentioned, I took out '$c because they are barely above .500 (9-7), barely in the top 100 (92nd) and the game had special circumstances besides being our cross-town rival (mainly, to shut their coach up).
This leaves us with games against Drexel 9-6 (RPI 85), UCSB 9-5 (RPI 63), Missouri 13-2 (RPI 44), Duke 12-4 (RPI 33), Arizona 17-0 (RPI 6) and Arizona St. 13-4 (RPI 71).
My frustration lies in our inability to make second half adjustments, especially after they have adjusted to our offense. Is this just in my mind? Are we really doing that much worse in the second half when playing real opponents? So, I decided to check something very simple - scoring by the half.
UCLA vs. Drexel: 42-31 first half; 30-36 second half
UCLA vs. USCB: 42-42 first half; 47-34 second half
UCLA vs. Missouri: 43-35 first half; 28-45 second half
UCLA vs. Duke: 37-37 first half; 26-43 second half
UCLA vs. Arizona: 38-43 first half; 37-37 second half
UCLA vs. Arizona St.: 50-33 first half; 37-39 second half
The average first half has us + 4.5 points. The average second half has us - 4.83 points. That's over a 9 point swing. The temptation is to cherry pick and remove UCSB (which would then make the second half -8.4). The other number that jumps out (even more so if you again remove the UCSB game) is the drop in scoring from the first half to the second half.
This isn't rocket science and shows that the eye test has been pretty spot on about our second half failures. My hopes, although they are not great, is that the last two games are showing us trending in the right direction. Sure, Arizona was begging us to take the game from them on Thursday. And, sure, the hole that ASU got was too big to climb out of as well as the bizarro officiating taking place. At least for one weekend, we've begun to show a little more grit, fight and heart. Just look at the numbers. They are a bit better. Time will tell if that's the start of something or an anomaly.