Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
10 game winning streak against mediocre competition? Another late game meltdown puts a grinding halt to that.
Before the game, soon to be former coach Ben Howland talked about how our late game meltdowns had not come back to bite us and had in fact described it as a "good problem to have". Ignoring for a second the completely ridiculous nature of that claim considering that one of the worst losses he's ever had occurred due to a late game meltdown against Cal Poly where they outscored the Bruins by 20 points over the final 12 minutes of the game. Forget about that for a second. The difference is that our previous meltdowns occurred when we had the lead and in games that were not tight.
Well thanks to our complete ineptitude and lack of toughness on the glass, this would not be a game that we could count on carrying a late lead. So how would we respond to a tight game? If it wasn't obvious before, it should be now. Whether it's throwing the ball out of bounds, turning the ball over twice on inbounds plays, or giving up putback after putback, the Bruins made a statement today down the stretch: We Are Not Elite.
That's not to say there weren't signs of elite play. Signs of what this team could be under a coach that isn't coaching for his next job. Kyle Anderson had a sparkling first half, filled with highlight reel worthy passing. Norman Powell busted out the drive and dunk that we haven't seen often enough out of him during his career here. This of course led to him getting pulled from the game temporarily for David Wear. Who says Howland doesn't know how to kill a player's momentum? We only ask that it not be our own. Even Tony Parker, in his token first half minutes, started his short day off with a block and hauled in two rebounds in his three minutes of action. But clearly rebounding wasn't on the priority list today as the Ducks outrebounded the Bruins by 10, as the tougher, quicker, more active team all game long.
Travis Wear continues to separate himself from his brother. Whereas Travis does enough offensively to offset his defensive and rebounding problems, David is looking more useless with each passing game. Yet down the stretch, there they both are. One keeping us in the game, and one helping take us right back out of it.
It will be said at other more pathetic outlets that Oregon simply had a great game. That they played at a "magical level" or some such nonsense. Don't you believe it. Their leading scorer, Damyean Dotson, went 2-11. As a team, the Ducks shot 44%. But as usual, with the game winding down, the Bruins' opposition could not be stopped. Arsalan Kazemi was a man among two Wear boys down low and on the glass. Dominic Artis (remember him?) had a field day against the slower perimeter defense and made a clutch jumper down the stretch. It's not without irony that another probable victim of the Ben Howland Broken Promise parade may just be the one that helps punch his one way ticket out of Westwood.
This was an unqualified failure for UCLA. Elite teams hold serve at home against a mediocre conference slate. We are not elite.