We are quitting early tonight because Ben Howland quit on this team in the first half of this game. The 97-68 DEMOLITION on tWWL
score is now not final but it really does not matter. The box score if you care to look will available here.
Howland just coached what was arguably his worst game in his career at UCLA. After feeling good from what was perhaps the best win of the season, Howland's UCLA basketball team embarrassed the entire Bruin Nation by getting demolished and destroyed on national TV. There are still about 4 minutes left in this game but it is nothing more than a formality. The damage has been done.
The only person responsible for tonight's humiliation is Howland who put together a clinic in terms of how to mismanage a game and destroy his team's confidence. Heading into this game the key for the Bruins were pretty much the same: patience on offense and play with 40 minutes of focus and intensity on defense. Well Howland let his favorite player Nikola Dragovic set the tone right from the get go with an impatient two point shot to start the first offensive set. From there on the Huskies took a 14-4 lead and never really looked back.
Bruins grabbed a silver of momentum Howland put in Brendan Lane and Bobo Morgan 10 minutes into the first half. When Lane sank a 3 point shot to close the gap within 16-22, Howland immediately rewarded him by putting him on the bench and bringing back Ragovic. From there on the Huskies blasted off to a 14-0 run and the team just quit on Ben Howland. Again the only way to describe it was, a Howland clinic on how to mismanage a game and ruin a team's confidence. Just plain disgusting.
While Rago gets the topline for being the obvious culprit and the poster boy for Howland's mismanagement, every member of this team was flat out pathetic. After the Huskies went on that 14-0 run, the team pretty much gave up trying. They were repeatedly called out by Jay Bilas and Bobby Knight for not trying on defense or showing any kind of effort. Jay Bilas flatly called out Ragovic for just not showing any kind of effort to muck it up inside. I
The Bruin guards were pitiful as they folded under the Huskies ball pressure. While Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson deserve a lot of heat, it ultimately goes back to the head coach. I am sure we can point to all kinds of ghastly statistics from the box score. However, remember Ben Howland is the one who has anointed Ragovic as one of the "leaders" of this team, and yet he repeatedly has allowed this guy to rack up minutes without showing any kind of effort or respect for the four letters in front of his jersey.
We are trying very hard to give Ben Howland the benefit of the doubt for his incredible Final-4 runs and Pac-10 championships. Again because of the political capital Howland built up all those years, his job is not going to be in any kind of immediate danger. However, at the same time he needs to be mindful these are the kind of performances that were ultimately Steve Lavin's undoing at UCLA. This is not the first time the team has flat out quit on Howland this season. It has happened multiple times this year and also happened number of times last season (including meltdowns against Arizona, Southern Cal, and Villanova).
If Ben Howland wants to have any sort of momentum and install confidence in his young team heading into this off-season, the reasonable direction for him would be to go with his young and more talented players on the bench. He should be playing kids like Lane, Morgan and Moser lot more along with a mix of Michael Roll and rest of the underclassmen in his starting rotation. He has no excuse at this point not to bench Ragovic for rest of the season and limit him to less than 20 minutes per game. If Howland continues to waste the minutes next year's guys can be getting on Ragovic, he will continue to waste away the trust and respect he has built up all these years.
While Howland's utter mismanagement humiliated the four letters on national TV, he lost lot more than a game tonight. He lost respect of lot more UCLA alums and students who love this basketball program. We will see what Howland does to get it back.
With that I will let you take the post game thread.