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Not How We Play Ben Ball

The day after we lost our first game against Texas Dan Guerrero fired Karl Dorrell. The day after we lost our second game against the Gap Closers CRN hired Norm Chow. I don’t think we are getting any such life lines. No matter how badly we want it no one is going to fire Kathy Olivier today. And even firing a worthless coach like her will not make the sour taste go away from Sunday.

There was a reason we were scared about this game. Let’s put one myth to rest. I have seen some comments here and there today about how we lost to some team with no talent on its roster. Well that assertion is BS and not based on any kind of fact. Bruins were not taking on a team like Oregon State yesterday. They were taking on a team which featured 2 5 star and 5 4 star athletes that Romar had stockpiled based on his early success when he arrived at Seattle. [See ratings] That kind of talent isn’t too far from our team which featured 3 5 stars and 6 4 star recruits from last four years. Huskies were not some little sisters of the poor. Yes, they have had a horrific season (which is not going to turn because of an aberration on Sunday). But the reason for that hasn’t been lack of talent but due to Romar and his staff (as admitted by Romar) inability to develop and harness the talent and put together a cohesive team. However, as we witnessed during the Lavin era, as long as there is talent, even a poorly coached, dysfunctional team playing jungle ball can have its day against well coached, fundamentally sound programs every now and then. And that’s what happened yesterday. The Huskies came out with fire and passion, and for once played up to their talent. Our team (the entire team) came out flat, failed to match that passion and intensity, and inexplicably lived up the standards of Ben Ball they have set last few years in Westwood.

The loss was on the entire team. The entire team ranging from the head coach to the 9th man in rotation shoulder the responsibility for this loss. By now everyone has already pointed how DC had the worst game of his UCLA career. He knows it and he admitted as such following the game. From Dohn:

Collison went 1 for 8 from the field and turned the ball over eight times in 38 minutes. His three points was his lowest output since going scoreless in the 2006 national title game loss to Florida.

"It was bad. It was horrible," Collison said. "I wasn't aggressive at all, like I was before. There's no word to explain it. I tried to pick my teammates up. I really feel bad. I really take credit for this team's loss."
DC will snap out of it. Something happens to him in Seattle. I don’t what it is. But he gets spooked in the Emerald City. Yesterday’s performance was basically a repeat of last year’s nightmare for DC when he went 2 for 15 in an atrocious 5 pt performance against the Huskies in Seattle. Sometimes I guess there is no explanation for it.

However, I wonder why Coach Howland took so long to make a defensive switch. I get that DC is probably the best on ball defensive guard in our team (and one of the best in the country). However, by second half it was clear he wasn’t getting it done. So wouldn’t it have made sense to switch Westbrook to Dentmon earlier in the game? That could be a good question to ask CBH in this week’s press conference.

However, it is unfair to put this loss just on DC. The entire team didn’t play up to our standards yesterday. Shipp voiced the cold reality on yesterday’s performance following the game (from Dohn linked above):
"They out-worked us, out-hustled us and we just weren't prepared," UCLA junior wing Josh Shipp said. "We didn't have it. They out-physicalled us."
Usually we hear those comments from opposing players and coaches after our games. The entire team bears responsibility for getting its rear end handed to them around the rim. Yes, we knew that the Huskies were a very good rebounding team. We knew they lead the league in offensive rebounds. And we were at a disadvantage without Luc that was going to hurt us in that department. Yet there was no excuse for the way we were thoroughly dismantled, dominated, and destroyed around the boards. Honestly it was oure entire frontcourt of Love, AA2, Mata-Real, Keefe, and Dragovic who let us down. They collectively just didn’t bring it. Time after time they were letting Brockman, Wallace et al. haul in rebounds to give those guys more opportunities. They were getting outworked and outhustled by Holiday and Bryan-Amanings of the world.

Even the guys who had decent days in the scoring column – Shipp, Westbrook, and Love – didn’t have good over all games. Shipp still wasn’t able to connect from long range. Westbrook was responsible for number of silly and careless turnovers, and Love frequently was taking time off on the defensive side.

And speaking of Love, I don’t appreciate this kind of comments from the freshman (also from Dohn):
"I was frustrated," Love said. "My touches were limited. They were double and triple teaming me, but it was just a tough loss. I have to keep spacing and my teammates have to find me. I saw that I was open a bunch of times, but it's up to them to see that and up to coach (Ben) Howland to tell the guys to give me the ball.

"It's not really my call. I'm just working and playing as hard as I can and be a team guy."
Uhm Kevin needs to stay quiet. He is not in the position to call out his team-mates considering how he was being slow on defensive, not rotating over, and frankly at times impersonating Chase Budinger while going up against Brockman. Kevin is having an incredible year. We love what he has brought to our program. But he needs to realize UCLA is much bigger than a prized freshman. He needs to get back to work and work with his team-mates to have a better game both on the offensive and defensive side, instead of worrying about what Coach Howland needs to do. In other words he needs to keep quiet particularly after games in which his own performance left much to be desired.

It wasn’t just the star players. Dragovic was horrible. He wasted away all the confidence he had been gaining till yesterday, by taking hurried shots, wild plays that effectively amounted to TOs. Same for Keefe, who started off all right but lost his composure down the stretch. There were three straight series during which he was the source for bad shots, turn overs, and stupid foul that threw away any chance of grabbing hold of momentum for our team. Stanback looked lost as well. Just really disappointing performance from all three given how they have been showing promises at various times on the road. When these guys they just need to make sure they are steady, playing smart ball, and trying not to do too much. I imagine they will recover eventually but they were all part of a total team letdown in Seattle.

Lastly, I was going to make a point about officiating, but it looks BHW beat me to the punch. What he said.

Anyway, it was an awful Sunday. But the sky is not falling. Going into this trip, I was hoping for a split without Luc. We got it. I just thought the victory was going to come in Seattle and I got greedy after Thursday night. We are tied for the conference lead but we have the head to head win over Stanford. At this point my advise to you is not get too caught up whether we are going to bring banner number 12. Honestly, my main concern right now is holding on the Pac-10 title. Its not going to be easy. I won’t be surprised if there are couple of more losses lurking around the horizon. Coach Howland had said the Pac-10 champion may end with a 14-4 record. He may turn out to be prophetic. The trick for our team is not to get down on itself too much, and figure out how to play their game. Because what we saw yesterday afternoon: that’s not how we play Ben Ball.