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Auwe! Bruins Wear Down Against Kansas; Fall 72-56

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Auwe is the Hawaiian expression for lament over a frustrating event or situation. And tonight, there is a lot to say Auwe about in the second round of the Maui Invitational as UCLA loses to Kansas for the second year in a row: 72-56.

Earlier this morning, we went over how imperative it would be for the Bruins to at least try to match Kansas' guard play. So when the starting five was Joshua Smith, Travis Wear, Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb, and Lazeric Jones, you had to wonder if we had scouted the Jayhawks at all. Anderson and Lamb I understand, but Zeek and Travis Wear? Not Reeves Nelson to pick up Thomas Robinson? Not Norman Powell to stick on Travis Releford or Elijah Johnson? Let's see how that works out...

Predictably, the Bruins quickly went down by 10 early. Even though the defense was bolstered by numerous Kansas turnovers committed by the inexperienced and young Jayhawks, UCLA was unable to capitalize on the other end due to some of the most woeful offense we've seen since, well, last night in the first half. But really, this pattern is getting very old and Wearing extremely thin. By the time Howland sent in David Wear alongside his brother, as a Bruin fan, you had to know it was going to be another one of those days.

Before I move on, I'd like to at least give Kansas their due credit. They played to their strengths, and their starters stepped up and played their roles. They have some growing up to do in terms of respecting the possession but UCLA only wishes we had those kinds of problems right now. Robinson was a steady force inside all game long, and finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Elijah Johnson had 23 points including 4 3 pointers and burned a Bruin defense that continually declines to close out on shooters.

This was still a winnable game for the Bruins though, as ridiculous as that may sound. The problem is that we have certain lineups that seem to be a favorite of Ben Howland that simply produce no offense. I'm not going to go through all the permutations of that, but most of them involve the Wears and Zeek. The fact that these guys have been liabilities out on the floor is not new, and I'm not talking about just their box scores and the fact that the three of them went 3-16 tonight from the floor. I'm talking about all the momentum killing, offense stalling things they do out there that just throw any rhythm we're building up out the window.

Zeek does not value the ball or possession. That should instantly disqualify you from point guard duties in a Ben Howland offense, but for whatever reason, not this year. Meet Drago part 2. The Wears are black holes. They never met a difficult shot they didn't like and when they actually pass to someone else, I don't think their teammates are ready for it. It's that much of a shock. None of this is conducive to developing any kind of offensive rhythm. Even Josh Smith, who absolutely disappeared this game, would have still been a better option to force up some shots than any of these three, because at least he's always eligible to get his own rebound. We had some players doing promising things, like Jerime Anderson (14 points) and Tyler Lamb (15 points) putting it on the floor and at least making KU respect them on the perimeter.

Why doesn't Norman Powell play? Could he really be any worse than Zeek or either of the Wears at the 3? We're seeing the Mike Moser situation play out all over again. The kid is always looking over his shoulder, knowing that he's getting the hook as soon as he messes up once, while he sees three of his teammates out there repeatedly bumbling away chance after chance without repercussion. Same argument goes for Lane, who did at least as well as both Wears in last night's game against Chaminade, yet he couldn't find the floor tonight.

This is about favoritism now. We can go over the defensive lapses, or the one possession of zone defense (that didn't work), or the fact that our run in the middle of the second half was fueled by threes and likely isn't the positive sign for this season that many of us probably think it is, but it all boils down to the rotation.

If this season is to be saved, Powell must play now. Lane and Stover must get more minutes, and Jerime should start. That's based on in-game performance, and if Zeek and the Wears want more time in the rotation, they should earn it back by playing well in substitute's minutes. I can only imagine Nelson's frustration watching our starting lineup go into a 10 point hole from the bench. There are pieces here, and they need playing time to develop at the expense of players that are not showing the same amount of promise and who are shooting us out of games.

Of course, I expect none of this to happen. Howland is about as stubborn as they come, and the rest of us will be back to praying that he's right about his favorites night after night, and the 14 wins of two years ago might start to look mighty appealing.