Jack Wang of Inside UCLA has really grown on me. He gets it now. He wrote the following key quotes on the debacle loss at home to a bad USC team. There are no more excuses, this is a team that is soft.
Defensive lapses: UCLA shouldn't have the excuse of youth anymore, not with more than half the season already gone. The loss to Cal Poly could be chalked up to growing pains. These Bruins made strides during a 10-game winning streak, and truly tapped into their potential with a win at Arizona.
Wednesday night undid any of that progress.
Again, UCLA's interior defense looked soft and welcoming - even as USC's 7-footers Dewayne Dedmon and Omar Oraby logged just 22 combined minutes. The performance of backup forward Aaron Fuller sums up the Bruins' performance well. The 6-foot-6 senior entered the game averaging 3.5 points, but found himself with 13 by halftime. Fuller scored a season-high 15 mostly on easy looks within two or three feet of the basket. It was just his second double-digit effort of the year.
More importantly, what does the #1 recruiting class, the win over two top ten teams, and everything else "good" this season mean? Absolutely nothing and possibly the same result as last year.
No easy answers: UCLA will return to action next week coming off back-to-back losses for the first time this season. Ken Pomeroy, who gave the Bruins an 82 percent chance to beat USC, projects three more losses through the rest of the regular season (Cal, Stanford, Arizona). That would give UCLA a 11-7 record in the Pac-12, the same as 2012.
As far as the game itself, in addition to being soft on the inside UCLA was sick on the outside.
UCLA was sick - and not in the good way - from behind the 3-point line, where it missed 17 of 19 shots, and allowed USC to make 50 percent of its attempts from long distance.
The players made an effort to come back and forced overtime against a bad team but it was not enough to stave off the most embarrassing loss by UCLA, well since earlier this year. When will it stop?
There it goes. What briefly looked like UCLA's biggest comeback win of the year turned into an embarrassing loss to USC, one that sucked out any momentum the Bruins built up over the past few weeks. The Trojans won 44-36 on the boards, but it was UCLA's inability to take advantage of turnovers that perhaps sums up this game. USC coughed the ball up 17 times, but the Bruins got just 12 points of those opportunities.
Even the biggest "howlers" cannot defend and justify this loss.
But there was no denying how different this loss was from the previous two. The Bruins' loss to Oregon seemed almost justifiable with the Ducks now a top-10 team, and against Arizona State, UCLA had been tired and somewhat overlooked a better-than-they-thought Sun Devil squad. But Wednesday's loss erased any positive vibes that remained from the Bruins' upset victory over Arizona last week. The loss to USC was not only the Bruins' third in four games, but it came at the hands of their hated rival, a team that ranked 130th in RPI.
Let's close with Peter "talking points" Yoon. Remember he is always trying to get the positive out there.
What it means: UCLA can no longer be considered a serious contender for the Pac-12 title and must now focus on what it needs to do to make the NCAA tournament. Failure to do so would undoubtedly mean the end of the Ben Howland era. USC showed that is is fully capable of playing at a high level, and while the Trojans may not win the conference title, they could have a say in who does down the stretch.
Ah no, Peter, Ben is gone. And the fact that Peter is openly talking about it is the only good news for Bruin fans. The bigger question is whether Dan Guerrero is gone as well and if Ben can still be fired during the season. But for now let's close the news roundup with how bad things are.
If the Bruins don't, athletic director Dan Guerrero might want to start doing some coach searching. A loss to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo is one thing, but losing to the Trojans on your home court is an unforgivable sin around Westwood.
And this loss came against a USC team with a losing record and one struggling so badly that it fired its coach two weeks ago. And this was a UCLA team that brought in the nation's No. 1 ranked recruiting class and was supposed to make a Pac-12 title run and some noise in the national championship race come March.
. . .The offensive breakdowns the past two games have been a result of players going into hero mode instead of running the offense as designed.
". . .
Mostly, however, the Bruins simply need to toughen up if they are ever going to play to their potential on a consistent basis. This is a team that seems to get complacent and satisfied with good performances. It's a team that seems to think it will win just because it has UCLA written on its jersey, has a couple of good wins and is playing in storied Pauley Pavilion.
Bye Bye Ben. Thanks for the memories pre-2008. I will remember you more fondly if you resign now. I know that won't happen, just as I know this team is not going anywhere. But Ben will be going somewhere else next year.