Watching how the UCLA Bruins performed and progressed in basketball during the 2010-11 se..."/> Watching how the UCLA Bruins performed and progressed in basketball during the 2010-11 se..."/>

UCLA Basketball 2010-2011 Season Review: Improvement in Westwood


Watching how the UCLA Bruins performed and progressed in basketball during the 2010-11 season, I was reminded of the time when I was in my high school’s marching band and the band director would often say,

“It’s better! It’s not good yet, but it’s better!”

That described Ben Howland’s squad perfectly as their overall record improved from 14-18 in 2009-10 to 23 wins, 11 losses, and the third round of the NCAA Tournament this year.

That record included a 13-5 mark in the Pacific-10 Conference (soon to be the Pacific-12 Conference with the addition of Colorado and Utah), good for second place behind Arizona, which was also an improvement.

Inconsistencies still abounded in Westwood, however, as the Bruins had trouble with turnovers, free throws, and rebounding in several games; Montana, USC at the Galen Center, and Oregon in the Pac-10 Tournament were three losses in which UCLA played particularly badly.

The main concern for the Bruins was their inability to consistently put together a strong 40 minutes, as during most games they would either play poorly in the first half and strong in the second half, or vice-versa, which frustrated Bruin fans.

Conversely, the team played like world beaters against BYU in the Wooden Classic, and also against St. John’s and Arizona in their last home game in Pauley Pavilion before the place closes for renovation, reopening in the Fall of 2012.

Overall, UCLA was a better team this season than last; that was due to the improvement of several key players.

Reeves Nelson was an absolute beast on the court as he led the Bruins with 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds a game, while Tyler Honeycutt was a very good front court partner in averaging 12.8 points a contest and constantly hitting clutch shots.

In the back court, Lazeric (Zeke) Jones did well in solidifying the point guard position, which was desperately needed in Westwood, while Malcolm Lee was a lockdown defender and averaged 13.1 points a game, which ranked second on the team while providing a steadying force all season.

Nelson, Honeycutt and Lee all earned spots on the All Pac-10 Team for their efforts.

Jerime Anderson likewise showed improvement as he provided good minutes off the bench, and Joshua Smith deserved his selection on the Pac-10’s All-Freshman Team as the 6′ 10″, 305 pound big man grew and made good progress as a player and as a force down low, averaging 10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds.

Being that there were no seniors on this year’s squad, next year could well be an outstanding one for UCLA.

Provided that no one declares for the NBA Draft – there’s speculation that Honeycutt might – the Bruins are projected as a top five team next season, which they will spend playing their home games in the Los Angeles Sports Arena near downtown, and other various places in Southern California during Pauley Pavilion’s renovation.

UCLA’s depth will improve with the addition of transfers and a good freshman class, and they will be primed for a Final Four run in 2012.

After their sub-par year in 2010, one can definitely say that this team is on the upswing.

For these Bruins, the challenge will be to continue that upswing as they move forward.

On the women’s side, things ended on a disappointing note for Nikki Caldwell’s 8th ranked team as they lost in the second round of the Women’s NCAA Tournament to Gonzaga on the Lady Bulldogs’ home court in Spokane, WA, 89-75.

It was the second year in a row that the Lady Bruins, a #3 seed, exited the Big Dance in the second round.

Point guard Courtney Vandersloot was unstoppable as she poured in 29 points and 17 assists, while Kayla Standish added 30 points of her own in front of their home crowd; after leading 38-35 at the break, UCLA was outscored by 17 points in the second half.

The loss left UCLA with a final mark of 28 wins – a school record – and five losses, including a 14-2 record in the Pac-10, finishing second behind Stanford, which handed them three of their five losses.

Overall, it was a very good year for Caldwell’s ladies, but they will look toward taking that next step to becoming an elite team next season.