UCLA's Season Ends, 91-83

The Bruins out-played the Huskies for 36 minutes, but didn't have it in the last four minutes to hold on in the first round of the Pac-10 tournament Thursday, ending UCLA's season...

A very sagacious basketball mind that I know said at the beginning of UCLA's season that, with their lack of talent, they needed to do three things to be successful this season: 1) rebound, 2) defend and 3) take care of the ball.

More or less UCLA has done a fairly good job in the first two categories. The third – turnovers – has definitely been UCLA's Achilles Heel this season.

It was definitely UCLA's undoing in its loss to Washington in the opening round of the Pac-10 tournament Thursday, 91-83, ending their season.

The game hinged on turnovers. When UCLA didn't turn over the ball, they built leads. When they went through periods of committing turnovers, they gave up leads. In the first half, they led 47-40 and only turned over the ball four times. In the second half, they relinquished their lead and control of the game while turning over the ball 11 times.

UCLA played with intensity and effort for most of the game. The effort level or heart wasn't really a factor Saturday, as it had been at times this season.

And actually, 15 total turnovers for the game isn't necessarily bad for a team that is last in the category in the Pac-10. But when you're playing against a good team, like Washington., even with UCLA's limited talented playing optimally and with intensity, turnovers will make the difference.

It was also significant that UCLA lacked the defensive quickness to stay with Washington's penetrators. When they needed to score, the Huskies were able to break down UCLA's defenders because of the Bruins' lack of quickness. Many might attribute to this to a lack of good defense down the line, but that lack of defense stemmed more from a lack of talent than desire this time.

UCLA did play perhaps one of its best first halves of the season, and probably its best offensive first half. They shot 60%, out-rebounded Washington 18-12, and scored 47 points.

It's eye-opening how many points this offensive system can score if you don't turn the ball over and take away your own possessions, and shooters make their shots.

For the game, overall, UCLA played well, and deserved to win, leading Washington most of the way, and beating them overall in rebounding. But as in the three other critical games that UCLA should have won but didn't (ASU, USC, and Oregon), UCLA lacked the leadership and wherewithal down the stretch to hold on to the game. It lacked the go-to player who's going to take the game on his shoulders and bring home the victory.

It might have discovered one – Brian Morrison – but too late. Morrison, still only playing at about 80% healthy, scored a game-high 23 points, making five of seven threes, and many of them being clutch.

Despite some little bits of griping by some players after the game, particularly Dijon Thompson ( for not being in the game in the last few minutes; Howland pulled him after he missed a huge three attempt with about 4 ½ minutes left with the scored, opting for the hotter Morrison), the performance was one that boded well for next-year's Bruins. Ryan Hollins played well, flashing more moves in the post in scoring 10 points; Trevor Ariza was a rebound short of a double-double, finishing with 12 and 9, and of course, Morrison.

It also boded well that the offense functioned better, at least for 36 minutes. The players appeared far more comfortable and in the flow. Adding Morrison to the line-up was a particularly boost since, without him, UCLA commonly only put one legitimate three-point shooter on the floor most of the time in Thompson.

So, UCLA ended its season on a common note, not having what it takes to hang on to a game in crunch time, and as a result of turnovers.

But another thing to take away from Saturday that bodes well: Not losing the game because of a lack of effort.

Coming Soon: An analysis of the season and realistic expectations for next season and the incoming freshmen...


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