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Ugly Bruins: Another Unfocused Effort For UCLA Basketball

I don't really want to spend too much thinking about our joke of a basketball team (at least the version made up of the current core) this Sunday. I do want to get some thoughts out of my head about last afternoon's expected debacle. First of all Penny2i has already made some astute observations about the game here. I agree with most of his points.

I still believe the key to all these debacles we are seeing this season (and I don't care much at this point for looking for silver linings in these predictable losses) is a lack of effort and focus. I believe they go together. We turned the ball over 22 times yesterday afternoon. 22 times!! Thinks about it. Essentially we squandered our chances of taking about 20 shots. If we connected on them 40 percent of times we would have had the chance to get around 16 points (we lost by 11). I mean. Really. Some of those TOs in second half were total jokes. The TV announcers who usually go out their way to be not overly critical of players and coaches, had to restrain themselves while commenting on Bruins, observing how we were just being "careless" with the ball. IMO this lack of focus goes to the heart of effort of this basketball team. It's just not there in a consistent basis. And that is mindbogglingly disappointing from a Ben Howland coached basketball team.

Speaking of a Ben Howland coached basketball team, let's look through the box score again. We shot 55% yesterday (to Stanford's 47%) and out-rebounded the Cardinal by 26-21. Yet, we looked hopelessly out of it in the second half with no chance to win. What is wrong with the picture? Well, it's because IMO Ben Howland has not been true to his original philosophy of putting together a basketball team that is grounded on defense and fundamentals. I think it is really sad that Ben Howland has decided to stray away from the principal of building a team around defense in recent years. It started last year when he would keep Josh Shipp and Jrue Holiday on the court, despite both of those guys not living up the tenets of Ben Ball warriors, and it has continued this year with his favorable treatment of ultimate anti-Ben Ball warriors such as Nikola Dragovic (I am really looking forward to "Senior Day").

Yesterday, I counted about 5 occasions when Rago got destroyed on the defensive end. Yet he was left in the game (guess in the hope of him getting lights out hot; don't worry he will get "hot" against Oregon State or something). Meanwhile, Lane and Bobo came in and seemed to get the hook immediately after making their first mistakes. The Bruins' defense actually stabilized a bit when Drago was benched after another horrific start yesterday (he has had only ONE good start the entire season, just ONE). Bruins actually finished the half within a point. Yet for some reason we never saw either Lane or Bobo in the second half, and we all know what transpired then.

I don't even know why I am letting myself getting frustrated over Dragovic. It's not going to matter much. He is going to keep playing 30+ mins this season and we will keep going through more humiliating defeats.Also, as I made clear in my post-game wrap it was the entire team that stunk up the joint. I guess I can take some comfort that we now have actual evidence of Honeycutt making a jump shot. Guess I can also make myself feel better thinking that Lee will eventually get comfortable at 1 and that Anderson is actually looking serviceable at times coming off the bench. It's not helping me all that much though.

This team just doesn't have "it." We could see it in their body language yesterday. Again. Yeah, I get the frustrations with the calls from SPTRs. On the other hand, I am starting to feel a little for these refs. I mean if you look at our guys - especially Jerime Anderson - they look like bunch of whiners on the court. He seems to argue every freaking call, roll his eyes, and give a look of entitled disdain. Newsflash for Jerime. He is no Farmar or Collison. He has ways to go before he gets those calls. He will only get tagged even more because the way he is going he will develop a reputation fast and referees hate whiners.

Also, in terms of body language, I saw absolutely no sense of urgency on how these guys were looking to execute on offense. That goes back to the point of effort and focus. For me they go together. I don't care much for "effort" when we flail around in a shot without any kind purpose. For me it's about zoning in and executing, while going all out on defense. How many times we have seen UCLA players dive on the ball for lose ball? Not that many and before Honeycutt got the starts we were not really seeing a lot of effort in the rebounding department either.

As I wrote last night, I don't expect these guys to beat Southern Cal. Southern Cal (10-6 and 2-2 in the Pac-10) is the better "team" because they actually play with more passion and purpose, and at least before the their "self-imposed" sanctions hit them they were the ones looking like on court version of Ben Ball warriors.

I have no doubt Ben Howland will be running tough and efficient practices this week in Westwood. However, I am pretty skeptical right now on whether he is getting through his players. I mean why should some of the underclassmen give their full effort and buy in, when they continue to see their head coach playing favorites with certain players who shows no regard or interest in playing defense.

Hard to stay motivated (for players and everyone associated with the program) when same debacle predictably takes place every week.