Well I thought for sure our Bruins were going to melt under pressure and then go through the motions when they showed up in Pullman tonight. The atmosphere around the team was certainly gloomy after another tough loss and tougher news around James Keefe. So when the Bruins took a 24-15 lead with about 10:36 left in the first half, I was just waiting for that run from the Cougars and subsequent el foldo from the Bruins (like the ones we saw in South Bend and in Eugene).
Well the Cougars did make that run to close within 2 points. Only this time Coach Ben Howland was forced to go to his bench with Brendan Lane and Bobo Morgan and he saw his young Bruins hold it together and put together a huge 14-2 run to end the first half. That run gave the entire team a huge shot of confidence and they never looked back as they came out and dominated the Cougars for rest of the second half. The final score was a 71-51 blowout which was accomplished not only without JK but also with out Reeves Nelson, who had to leave the game with a huge cut (after throwing down a dunk) in the first half. Here is the box score.
It was Tyler Honeycutt who got the party started by getting hot from outside early. He finished with 14 points, 4 assists and 4 boards, while Michael Roll did his part to bring senior leadership with 15 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.We shot 66% from the floor but only took 12 3s (making 5 of them). So much for the nonsense that we can only win when Nikola Dragovic gets hot. We were smart and patient on offense while air tight on D (limiting the Cougars to 36% shooting). As smooth as TH and MR were the story for tonight's game was the Bruin bench and reserves who finally got to play actual minutes without having to be worried about getting pulled by Howland.
Bobo Morgan perhaps had his best day as a Bruin making his presence felt all over the court. It was Bobo who really set the defensive tone in second half with block shots and altering the Cougars shots in general by standing tall down low. He finished with 3 blocks, 3 rebounds and 2 points, playing 21 solid minutes. Meanwhile, Brendan Lane did his part holding his own in the zone defense. He was active in his rotation and with his presence our defense was lot tighter and crisper down low. He did make couple of freshmen mistakes but overall had a solid 14 minutes in which he contributed with 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 points.
Speaking of contribution Jerime Anderson got a little boost to his shattered psyche as he pitched in with 10 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 4 steals. Now only if he can build on it through rest of this season and the entire freaking off-season. Oh Rago had 14 points but gave us the moment of night when he missed the dunk in garbage time.
It is going to be very interesting to see how Howland manages his rotation from hereon out. I thought our zone defense looked a little tighter without Nelson (and of course Rago). However, we need Nelson's aggressiveness and warrior spirit down low. I think Lane and Bobo clearly made convincing cases for more mins rest of the season. Hopefully Howland will find a way to trust them by keeping them in during crunch time like he did tonight even when the Cougars made their run.
I think this was a very important win for the Bruins notwithstanding what takes place in Seattle on Saturday night. By winning tonight's game the Bruins maintain a realistic shot of finishing the season at least at .500. If they can hold serve at home next week and then can pull out 2 more wins (by either stealing one against Arizona schools) or scraping and clawing to win 2 at Staples, I think the season will end on an uplifting note.
The key for our guys will be to play with composure and with no sense of fear or pressure when they play 5 on 8 against the Huskies in Seattle. The entire arena is going to be rocking, tWWL is going to be pouring on the UCLA hate, and the Huskies will be playing like a pack of rabid dogs since they never have to worry about getting foul calls from the SPTRs at home. If the Bruins just come in there and play with the mindset of nothing to lose but everything to gain just by playing 40 mins of all out hard fought, focused and intense defense, they could make it fun.
For now though I think we should enjoy this win. The Bruins played their best game of the season. That is saying something because they could have been very tempted to pack it in and give up on rest of the season. The fact that they played with composure and so much tenacity gives me hope - not necessarily for Saturday - but for a good finish and set up for a productive off-season.
Enjoy the post game thread.