This is the kind of win that we’ve wanted to see consistently pulled out of UCLA’s behind all season long.
The UCLA Bruins Men’s Basketball squad edged the Washington Huskies 75-69 in a thriller on Saturday afternoon, ending the season with a two-game win streak and heading into the Pac-12 with some momentum.
Of course, this game was frustrating the entire way through. Washington led most of the way since UCLA dropped an 11-10 lead early in the contest. UCLA stood close, but ridiculously bad defense kept Washington in front, while WSU’s 2-3 zone stifled the UCLA offense in the second half. It didn’t help that UCLA didn’t try to exploit the zone’s weaknesses (the corner three and dribble penetration), and Washington looked to have things figured out.
But UCLA managed to penetrate and score late in the game and go on a game-changing 10-2 with five minutes to go to put them up by two. Washington led once more, but UCLA quickly recovered the lead and held on most of the way thanks to inspiring play by UCLA’s big men, namely Josh Smith and the Wear Twins, each with huge put-backs. (Although, their defensive rebounding gave WSU 30 too many extra chances at scoring.) Our guard play was particularly intriguing, too, with Tyler Lamb anticipating Washington’s passes left and right, and ended the game with four steals (and about two or three million tips).
The implications of this game are interesting. Sure, we’re still out of the top four in the Pac-12 (which would’ve ensured us a first-round bye), and sure, there’s no way in hell we get to the NCAA tournament without taking the Pac-12 championship by winning four straight.
But is this a sign of things to come? Will inspired play in the Pac-12 tournament — assuming they play the way they did against Washington and WSU the past weekend — propel them to the crown and change the way Howland’s been running his teams?
I’m going to be conservative and say no, no it won’t. The obvious argument is that Howland was humanized by the article and it has brought him closer to his players, who may disagree with the contents of the Sports Illustrated article. But can one article change a stubborn person’s affect and personality? Doubtful.
I’ll remain hopeful. I’ll hope that the allegations made against Reeves Nelson and Ben Howland are not true. I’ll hope that Howland becomes less of an abrasive prick as a result. And I’ll hope that, as a result, his players fight harder and more inspired.
But this was two games, and two games only.
Be wary of false hope, Bruins. Lord knows we’ve had enough of that.