UCLA Bruins Basketball: Is Bill Walton Right?


Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

I watched the Washington-Oregon game last night, hoping for a Huskies victory. Oregon won, which doesn’t help our Bruins, but watching the game itself, I couldn’t help but notice how physical, gritty and low scoring it was.

It was a hard fought, physical contest throughout. The final score was 65-52. Washington struggled to even score, and Oregon didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Looking at some checkpoints along the way in the game, you can get a sense of what I mean.

At the 10:00 mark in the first half, the two teams had combined for just 22 points. By halftime, things had picked up a bit as they had combined for 60 points. That means they combined for 38 points during that 10-minute segment which was a pretty good clip, which if maintained would have resulted in a shoot-out.

Ten minutes into the second half, the two teams had a combined 84 points, having slogged through that time frame much as they had the first 10 minutes of the game, producing 24 points. They finished the game with a combined 117 points, which means they scored a combined 33 points down the stretch.

This was not run-and-gun basketball by any stretch of the imagination. Combined, the two teams got off just 109 shots. There were 35 fouls and, believe it or not, in my opinion the refs swallowed their whistles. The teams shot 35 free throws combined. The Ducks shot a mind-numbing 56.5% from the free-throw line on 13-for-23 shooting. The Huskies were abysmal from the 3-point line, making just 2-of-13 for a 15.4 percent shooting from deep. The Ducks weren’t much better at 4-for-13 from range. The winning Ducks were outrebounded by six. There were only 10 assists in the entire game, seriously, and the Huskies recorded ZERO dimes. There was plenty to not like about this game, including how it was refereed, played and coached. Overall, the game felt like it was played in molasses.

Curiously, Bill Walton (the color commentator) had nothing but high praise for both coaches. Dana Altman “has a vision and a plan.” Lorenzo Romar is “a top coach in the Pac-12 and gets the most out of his players.” There was zero criticism of the product on the floor, in fact, there was only praise. No sarcasm. No digs at the coaches. No questioning any of the glaring issues during the game. No wondering how a nationally ranked team like Oregon could get outrebounded by the likes of the Huskies. No one was aghast at the lack of a single assist by Washington.

Oddly enough, the Big Red Head was quick to point out these types of issues during the Bruins’ game against the Huskies a week ago. Keep in mind that in that game, the teams scored a combined 116 points compared to the apparently-acceptable 117 points from the game last night. More to the point, it could be argued the Bruins game against the Huskies was more exciting and flowed better. Consider there were 14 more shots taken (123 to 109), 10 more steals (20-10), more assists (20-10), fewer free throws (30-35), fewer fouls (31-35) and roughly equal attendance. And yet…

Walton had no problem finding all the issues in UCLA’s game, the Bruins and Coach Howland. Not only did he continuously drub the “product on the floor” and make it clear he thought the game was awful, but he flat out said he did not like Coach Howland and said if he were in charge things would be different. So how can Altman and Romar be worthy of praise and Howland worthy only of scorn when putting out a similar product?

Because we’re UCLA. Because when it comes to Oregon or Washington or anyone else, Walton can be disingenuous or fake and it doesn’t matter. Altman is good, but a pedestrian coach at best. Romar is a notch below Altman in my book. But they don’t coach at UCLA. I personally am not comfortable with Walton calling out Coach Howland like he did on national TV. I’ve said before, I don’t believe Coach Wooden would condone that either. That stated, I have to admit, I understand his criticism. Is Walton right?