On one hand, UCLA’s maligned basketball team, which has disappointed so far this season, showed the same old problems in Reliant Stadium in Houston against the Texas Longhorns on Saturday; getting out-rebounded, shooting but 41.3 %, committing bad turnovers, and generally needing, according to coach Ben Howland, to “…work on everything.”
On the other hand, one can take comfort and be encouraged over the fact that despite their continued underachieving play, the Bruins pulled off an 8-2 run at the end and managed to get a much-needed win on the road over Texas, 65-63, before a sparse crowd of just over a couple of thousand folks.
Which I’m sure made Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans, look like a cavernous tomb.
But with times being what they are in Westwood, I’m also positive that this UCLA hoops squad will more than happily take this win, which upped their record to 6-3; as a longtime member of Bruin Nation, I certainly will.
The Longhorns scoring 30 points in the paint continued to show the Bruins’ defensive weaknesses, particularly inside as they got beat on the boards 41-38, but Texas missing 16 of 20 shots from beyond the three-point arc helped UCLA, who were bad from beyond themselves as they were but 2 of 11.
Jordan Adams, who leads the Bruins with 17 points per game, has emerged as a go-to guy as as the freshman’s three-point play to tie the game at 61 with just over a minute left galvanized UCLA. His point total for the game – 18 with seven rebounds – was a point beyond his average, and the Bruins needed every one of them.
Two more of UCLA’s super freshmen, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, scored in double figures on Saturday, Muhammad with 16 and Anderson with 11 plus six boards, but that was pretty much it as no other Bruin had more than six points (Travs Wear and point guard Larry Drew II).
On the surface, it looks like UCLA’s next three opponents, starting with Prairie View A & M on December 15 and following that up with Long Beach State and Fresno State before the Christmas holiday, will be cream puffs that the Bruins should beat easily, using them as good practice before their last big non-conference showdown with 12th-ranked Missouri on December 28.
But as I and more or less all of Bruin Nation has realized, this is a team that cannot take anyone lightly – if they were playing Santa Ana’s Mater Dei High School or L.A’s Westchester High School, they would need to approach those games as if they were playing Duke or top-ranked Indiana.
For anyone who disputes that, just go to the tape of the Bruins’ game with Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
UCLA has about four or five practices this week (as well as final exams) to improve their execution and level of play along with getting more convincing wins.
Whether or not that will translate to better performances and more wins remains to be seen.
But as a loyal Bruin, I remain hopeful.