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Howland’s Mentally Soft Bruins Drop Pac-12 Opener to Stanford 59-60

It's almost 1:30 am out here in the East Coast and I am wondering why I just stayed up to watch what just unfolded in Palo Alto. Ben Howland's Bruins were feeling good about themselves after a 5 game win streak (during PRN era) compiled against 4 cupcakes and a mediocre mid-major in Richmond. However, reality caught up tonight as they lost in a predictable heart-breaker up against an above average Stanford team up at the Farm.

The Bruins had two chances to win the game in the final seconds but they blew it by a hurried and unnecessary three point shot attempt from Jerime Anderson and then from another hapless one from Zeek Jones. The final score was 59-60 (box score). Yay for the moral victory loving losers. I can already see Chianti Dan typing away his next "blog" about Bruins (7-6, 0-1) "fighting hard" against Stanford (11-2, 1-0).

While the game turned out to be close, perhaps it was lost early in first few mins when a bad and stubborn strategic "defensive" decision by Howland cost the Bruins. We actually came out with a little energy and got up with a 4-0 "lead" on the road. That was it. Unfortunately for us Howland decided to come out with M2M and with two Wears on the court, Stanford ended up going with on a huge 15-2 run. IMO Howland miscalculation to go with M2M instead of zone early on that proved to be a decisive factor in this game. Stanford finished the game making only 33.9 percent of their shots. We could have won this game if we came out with a tenacious and tight zone D early. But Howland's stubbornness cost us dearly tonight.

It also didn't help us as our "point guard" Jones set the tone early with poor shot selection and without any effort to locate his team-mates. More on that and late night game notes after the jump.

Even though the game appear to get out of hand early on, thanks to some leadership on the defensive end from Jerime Anderson late in the second half Bruins made a 6-0 run thanks to couple of steals from Jerime and closed the game within 2 to 19-21. Jones than chipped in during that run, helping the Bruins to close the gap to 23-24. That was the score at the half.

So Jones was the "leading scorer" for the Bruins as he finished with team high 26 points. It was not a surprise though because he never really looked to set up his team-mates, especially our big guys in the paint. As usually he played like a 2 guard as our "starting point guard," not doing much to run a methodical and efficient half court offense. Bruins finished with 9 turnovers (3 from Jones and 3 from Tyler Lamb) and just 1 FREAKING assist during the first half (it came from Jerime). The Bruins finished with a total 8 assists for the entire game.

The two teams kept going back and forth for a while in early second half. In first few mins Howland went with a core line up with a heavy dose of the Wear twins minus Powell and Stover. When Powell was on the floor he put up some forced shots because ... well he had to get his attempts in because of the quick hook from Howland.

It'd be interesting to see how Powell's game would develop if he got serious mins where he wouldn't have to constantly look over his shoulder after every mistakes (unlike the Wear Twins or Dragovic or JS ... you get the idea).

Going back to the game the two teams kept going back and forth as Stanford clung to a small lead. Zeke kept us in the game with his shots from 3 point attempt. However, as noted above he wasn't really looking for his team-mates. While his team-mates were not stepping up, the question we have to reflect on whether our offensive flow was getting totally disrupted with a "point guard" with his shoot first mindset.

The Trees were up by a score of 47-46 with 7:10 left in the game. Around that time (12:40 AM EST) I thought the Bruins weren't mentally tough enough to pull the game out. The prediction turned out to be right. Bruins also self-destructed themselves with some ugly free throw shooting, making only 15 of their 24 attempts from the line. We kept missing FTs in second half with chances to take the lead. As mentioned above, the fear about being too mentally soft once again became a reality with these Bruins. These guys are nothing like the "Ben Ball warriors" of past. Then again Howland himself gave up on that mindset a while ago and continued it today with the huge mins for the Wear Twins.

The Wear Twins finished with combined 5 rebounds and 1 point in the first half. They couldn't get anything done on the offensive side and constantly found themselves out of position when the Bruins needed to come down with a board. They were awful yet Howland didn't bother to given Anthony Stover some good mins or even try out Brendan Lane. Howland left them on the court in the closing mins as they combined for a total of 7 points and 11 rebounds.

Lamb tried to keep us in the waning moments with couple of clutch buckets but it just wasn't enough. Even though we had a chance to win the game in closing seconds, we didn't get any good looks because of dumb shot selections courtesy of Anderson and Jones.

The stat line that jumps out to me is the rebounding margin. We thought the Bruins would have an advantage in the frontcourt with guys like Joshua Smith, Stover, the Wear Twins and Lane. Yet we got out rebounded by 3 (29 to 32) with Stanford dominating us early on. The Trees finished with 9 offensive rebounds to our 5.

As I said earlier today this Bay Area road trip is a big deal with ramifications on Howland's long term future at UCLA. Unfortunately for Howland and for us, he is off to a bad start thanks to same old stubborn and bad strategic decisions that have hurt this program on the court for last 3+ years. All the good vibes that were generated during our 5-0 run against cupcakes and a weak Richmond team is now gone.

With that we will let you take over this late night (early morning out here in the East) post game thread so you can fire away with your quick takes. If you have extended reflections (more than 75 words) make sure to use the fanpost section. Fire away.