11-5 and in second place in the Pac-12 Conference
For three out of the four halves of basketball that UCLA played this past weekend against the Oregon schools, it looked like the Bruins’ season would go into the dumpster.
It was an impressive show of integrity by coach Steve Alford, but it also maimed their chances against the Ducks and – though UCLA played valiantly in forcing two overtimes – failed to keep the team from suffering a devastating 87-83 loss that more or less ended any hopes for a Pac-12 championship.
Then in a must-win game against Oregon State on Sunday night at Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins played about as bad as they did in Corvallis, taking a nine-point deficit into halftime and incurring Alford’s wrath in the locker room.
“I was not happy with our effort,” Alford said in an obvious understatement.
Fortunately for them, there was a second 20 minutes to play, and that’s where the Bruins finally woke up as they outscored the Beavers 45-31 and came up with a 74-69 win on Senior Night – David Wear and his twin Travis Wear were honored beforehand – that solidified their place as the second best team in the Pac-12 as Arizona clinched the regular season title with a win over Stanford.
“I though the effort…was who we are,” the Bruin coach commented. “we got steals which ignited our transition game. We got to the free-throw line (where they made 11 out of 13 shots from the charity stripe in the last 1:13). We ran the offense much better.”
Anderson and Adams were determined to redeem themselves for the wrongdoings which caused them to sit on the bench in street clothes against Oregon as Anderson grabbed nine rebounds, dished off five assists, and made all eight of his free throws in scoring 14 points.
While Adams exploded in the second half in scoring 20 of his game-high 24 points.
The ultimate result was a win that may have saved UCLA’s season as a loss, which would have been their third in a row, would have pretty much ruined it in the form of a lower seed in the NCAA tournament in the midst of a downward spiral.
It also assured the Bruins of a first round bye in the upcoming Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas as they are a game up on third-place Arizona State with two conference games to go.
A main issue facing this team is their inside play, which led to their losses to Stanford and Oregon and which they sorely need to improve on if they plan on having good things happen to them in the coming weeks.
As well as executing in both halves of a game rather than just one going forward.
Even though UCLA showed much heart against Oregon late and against OSU in the second half, I’m still not convinced that this is a team heeded for March Madness glory.
These Bruins can change that in their last two conference games against the Washington schools on the road, where their mission – and they will accept it, I’m sure – is this:
SWEEP WASHINGTON AND WASHINGTON STATE.
That will break the pattern of disappointing splits that Alford’s team has endured away from Westwood, and will also make me and I reckon the bulk of Bruin Nation feel much better about their postseason prospects.
NEXT TWO GAMES FOR UCLA:
** Washington Huskies, Alaska Airlines Arena, Seattle, WA
Thursday March 6, 6:00 p.m. TV: ESPN2
** Washington State Cougars, Wallis Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum, Pullman, WA
Saturday, March 8, 8:00 p.m. TV: Fox Sports 1