Under Steve Alford UCLA has failed to ever win both games of a PAC 12 road trip for two seasons now after the dramatic loss to UC Berkeley. The only chance left is against Arizona and Arizona State which seems an unlikely place to accomplish that feat.
I will say that personally I thought this was the best "loss" of the season. While all the other losses UCLA looked like a team that deserve to lose and with the exception of a close loss to a terrible offensive Alabama team none of UCLA's prior losses had even been close. UCLA played very well as a team in parts of this game and looked better than UC Berkeley.
A great example of this was to start the second half.
The Bruins opened the second half using a 12-2 scoring run over a 3-minute and 17-second span to secure a 40-34 cushion, the largest lead for either team in the second half.
UCLA started the second half shooting 6-7 going inside first. Led by Looney going 3-3 with a jumper, layup and dunk. The dunk was particularly nice because he passed to Parker. Parker was double teamed and passed to Looney on the move for a beautiful dunk. UCLA's offense looked as good as it looked at any point this season during that short run.
Of course, this is in contrast to the start of the game. As once again the only beat writer even bothering to cover the Bruins Jack Wang wrote:
Even accounting for the final few plays, the game might have turned out differently if UCLA hadn't looked so out of sorts to start. Against a Cal defense that ranked fourth-to-last in the country in forcing turnovers, the Bruins mustered just three assists against seven turnovers before the break. Too often, the first-half offense looked like a string of isolation plays, with the Bruins taking turns dribbling while they looked for holes. Once in a while, there was movement, including Bryce Alford hitting Parker in stride for a layup - but such moments were few and far in between.
This brings up an interesting fact. In the first half UCLA was led by Bryce Alford's 13 points. In the second half Bryce scored 2 points. I am sure people will disagree but it seems that this is a better team when Bryce looking to pass first.
However, an alarming trend of a different kind has come up. I honestly thought the Bruins ran out of gas last night. I thought Parker had nothing left and Looney was hurting and tired. In any case it is now two games in a row where the Bruins have collapsed at the end. Wang again (emphasis mine):
Here are the bad: the Bruins turned the ball over early, against a team that ranks among the worst in college basketball at forcing turnovers; their offense looked gassed again to end a second straight game; they gave up a bevy of 3-point shots, including two that cost them the game. . . .
As back-to-back threes by Bird and Dwight Tarwater pushed the Bears to a two-point lead, the Bruins missed another layup (Powell) and the front end of a one-and-one at the line (Looney). Alford called a timeout with 16 seconds left, plenty of time to generate a good shot. The ball went to Powell, driving in for a contested jumper near the baseline. It missed.
Point guard Bryce Alford threw up a last-ditch running 3-pointer, bouncing it harmlessly off the rim and backboard. The Bruins made just one of their final six shots.
Chrissorr has often written of the Bruins' jitters at the start of games. Now for the first time we are seeing what a lack of bench may mean as the Bruins' looked tired at the end of games.
Of course the other reasons are there as well. Starting with another last minute three by UC Berkeley:
Tarwater took a pass from Tyrone Wallace and made a 3-pointer with 18.9 seconds left after teammate Jabari Bird was late coming across the court, and the Golden Bears hung on to beat UCLA, 64-62, on Saturday for their third consecutive win in the final moments.
"Actually me and Jabari were supposed to cross but Jabari didn't cross," said Tarwater, who had missed 11 of his previous 13 3s over three games before making the winner. "Tyrone got in the paint, kicked it out to me and I shot the ball with confidence. It went in, thankfully."
Looney ran at Tarwater forcing him to arc it high. As Steve Alford said:
Well the last one, I don't think I could've asked anybody else to contest any better than that. That's the highest arc shot we've seen in a long time. That was a great contest. The senior made a couple threes, I think he's shooting 20-something percent on the year. They had some guys that ended up making some shots. But we defended [Jordan] Mathews, who hurt us in game one with his three-point shooting, so that didn't hurt us. I will say threes ended up being a pretty big difference because they made nine and we made three. Free throws were a wash, and we out-rebounded them. The difference in this game ended up being they got nine threes and we got three threes.
UCLA plays five at home and only two more road games. Can they go 6-1? It seems likely they won't sweep the Arizona trip but with this team nothing is a lock.