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Taking Responsibility

I will be frank. Last night's loss stung a lot. It hurt. It hurt lot more following the losses against Michigan and Texas. I expected tough challenges against Michigan early in the season going up against a well drilled Beilein team with a bunch of freshmen and upperclassmen just getting acclamated into new key roles. Beating a talented team like Texas on their home court was always going to be a tall order. Losing to those two teams didn't raise a lot of concern or alarm. However, last night's loss felt a little different. It felt different for two reasons:

  1. Holding Serve: With Howland in charge I expect us to win every single home game (no matter who the opponent is). For last three years I haven't gotten used to the idea of losing at Pauley. That's unacceptable to me. That's why last afternoon's loss felt as bad the ones against Southern Cal and Texas from last year, and against California and West Virginia three years earlier. This is a feeling I don't like and I feel never accept getting used to.

  2. The Collapse: I will not rehash the number of mins we didn't score a FG down the stretch. Again, the bottom line here is we CHOKED. That is a hard reality to accept given the fact that we have IMHO the best head coach in the game and very gifted group of basketball players, who day in and day out give as much effort and hustle as any other team in the country.

So I was in a funk right after the game. I didn't want to read any of the papers this am. Then I realized who was our head coach and the kind of leader we have on this team. I have got to say I am feeling a little better after reading comments like this in which Coach Howland accepted full responsibility for his late substitution patterns:

"It's really my fault, my responsibility, I didn't use our bench well enough in this game," Howland said. "We got a little tired, a little worn down. Should have played Jerime Anderson minutes, should have looked to get Alfred a little more rest in there. We got a little worn down."

Howland said it was mismanagement.

"It was just the flow of the game," Howland said. "I went with our veteran guys. I've got to do a better job substituting. Again, that's my responsibility."

for not playing ML in the game:

"I probably should have played Malcolm," Howland said. "Again, that's my call."

And for the last play of the OT:

"I told Darren that with 11seconds to go that we wanted to go all the way to the basket, that we didn't need to shoot a 3," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "But we brought it up too slowly. That's my responsibility. We didn't get a shot off. That's poor coaching."

Meanwhile, DC took "full responsibility" for not doing his part in effectively breaking down the zone in those nightmarish crunch time mins:

"We have to attack, regardless if they cut us off," Collison said. "We have to attack their zone. If we don't attack the zone, we're not going to get anything out of it. Once we get into the paint, we should be fine, but we didn't get to the paint enough and I take full responsibility."

Howland said the instructions during timeouts centered on dribbling into the zone or attacking it with a pass to the high post, but it didn't translate into the game.

Honestly, before logging on this am I was thinking about writing a post criticizing Coach Howland and DC on those exact same points. To see these guys be so transparent and honest in their assessments of what went wrong gives me even more hope in terms of what to expect rest of this season.

I only really have two additional points to add here. First, I agree with BruinRule's observation that it wasn't a good idea to take the air out of the ball against a team playing tough zone defense. I am sure there were many who were getting incredibly frustrated to see the offense not getting in motion until 10 seconds left in the shotclock. For some reason we took our feet of the gas pedal and started playing not to lose. For whatever reason from Howland and DC's comments it seems the plan was there to attack the zone even after we went up by 11 pts with about 8 mins to go. Clearly the strategy had been working up to that point as our offense was carving up the ASU defense.

Second, someone else also noted this already. I didn't care for the combination of ND, JS and MR on the court at the same time. Don't get me wrong. I like all these guys and love the way they have been shooting recently. Yet I thought with that combination there is always a danger of falling into a pattern of settling for jumpshots. And we were doing a lot of that yesterday. We took 25 shots from behind the arc, representing almost half of our FG attempts (52). That's way too many 3 point attempts IMHO.

Anyway, it was a perfect storm of ASU's Harden turning it up on offense, poor substitution patterns, and a gassed DC/JS going cold from the offensive end led to our eventual downfall. This happens. It is tough to get out of a funk following a loss in Ben Ball because they are rare. Yet, we know the world didn't end we lost to JustSC on our home court last year.

Every game from here on out is going to be an all out brawl. We are going to take on an inspired Washington State team in Pullman on Thursday night, which is coming off an impressive road win against Oregon. The test for our coaches and our Ben Ball warriors will be to get out of the funk, regroup, and focus on applying the bitter lessons learned in Pauley yesterday afternoon. Given the way they took responsibility diagnosing the precise reasons on what went wrong, I am nothing but hopeful and optimistic for rest of the season.