13-3 overall, 2-1 and in fifth place in the Pac-12 Conference
Jordan Adams – 18.1 points per game
Kyle Anderson – 15.3 points per game
Kyle Anderson – 9.3 rebounds per game
Many fans and pundits were encouraged by the hard-fought effort that Steve Alford’s team displayed against top-ranked Arizona on Thursday night in their 79-75 loss.
I join those folks who lauded the fact that unlike in their previous losses to Missouri and Duke, UCLA didn’t fold in the second half but hung in with the nation’s #1 team, a team that everyone generally agrees is Final Four material with their 17-0 record.
I can’t help feeling that the Bruins could have won if they didn’t make mistakes down the stretch, like miss five consecutive free throws or give the Wildcats wide open shots; they had a one-point lead with roughly a minute left but Arizona ultimately showed why they are the top-ranked team in the country and UCLA is not.
And I don’t believe in moral victories, either, nor should anyone else in Bruin Nation.
A loss is a loss, and the Bruins need to not just be disappointed in their setback to the Wildcats, but downright angry that they had a chance to score a huge signature win early in Alford’s tenure in Westwood, and flat-out blew it.
They could have licked the number one team in the U.S and caused the student section, who came out in force and did a great job in being loud and enthusiastic, to storm the court afterwards, but failed to get the job done.
I will say this:
It was a great sign to see UCLA come back after that defeat to beat a good Arizona State team on Sunday night.
The Bruins, led by freshman Zach LaVine‘s 19 points, were more than able to shake off what happened on Thursday to dismantle the Sun Devils 87-72.
It was a most crucial game in this early point of the Pac-12 schedule as another loss at home would have meant that the Bruins would be in some trouble with road games against two ranked teams – Colorado and Oregon – looming, with the Colorado game coming up this Thursday.
UCLA showed fortitude in the win, which is very important for any team to have success and which will be helpful for this team down the road.
The question remains:
Are these Bruins OK at this point of the season?
I’ll be honest:
Right now I can’t give a definitive yes or no answer as I need to see these guys get wins against the tough teams in the conference, particularly on the road.
They unfortunately won’t get another chance against Arizona, but contests at California and Washington await them as well as the battles in Oregon and Colorado.
And I would also like to see them with quicker feet on defense as that’s been their Achilles heel in their three losses.
That will tell me once and for all if UCLA is a serious contender to make a deep run in the Big Dance in March, but no matter what happens…
Even if the Bruins tank the rest of the season (which they won’t), Alford gets a pass because it’s his first year at the helm.
And I never judge any coach until he has a chance to recruit and play his own players; one must keep in mind that save for LaVine, Alford’s sons Bryce and Kyle, and a couple of others who haven’t had too much of an impact on the court as of yet, these are Ben Howland’s players that the Bruin coach is working with.
And overall he’s doing a good job in letting them play and not keeping a totalitarian-like atmosphere in the program like Howland did.
The bottom line in all of this as far as if things will turn out all right in the end for these Bruin hoopsters is:
Time will tell – I’ll have a much better idea in another month.