Still Alive

Even though it's not pretty, winning is still a whole lot more fun than losing. UCLA's basketball team has won two of its last three and looks good to gain a Pac-10 tournament berth...

No matter how you feel about wanting the season over, or wanting Steve Lavin gone, you have to admit, it felt unusually good for UCLA to win two of its last three games.


The wins were, by no means, pretty. In fact, they weren't even just average-looking. They were bordering on ugly.


But at least UCLA can now out-ugly another ugly team for a victory.


Really the principle difference in the team in the last three games as opposed to the first 23 is a better execution on the offensive side of the floor. And to a great extent that has been due to Ray Young moving to point guard.  Many would not have believed if it you said that it would be Young who would bring the steadiness to the backcourt that has made the difference.  As we've said before, as a shooting guard he's wild and out of control much of the time, but as point guard he takes on a more disciplined mentality, which has not only helped him, but the team. It has also provided him better scoring opportunities, more solid looks to the basket and limited him in driving wildly.  In UCLA's last three games, he is not only running the team, and second on assists, but leading the team in scoring, averaging 19.6 points a game. He's shooting a blazing 57% from the field and is 9 of 13 from three.  While Young is just plain hot shooting the ball right now, there's a lot to be said for shooting the ball with good looks.


Jason Kapono also has responded and played well, leading the team against Oregon State with 20 points and 13 rebounds.  His game has truly benefitted from better offensive execution, the team and Young able to get Kapono more touches and better looks at the basket. 


Also, as a result of Cedric Bozeman's injury, the rotation has shortened, which has given the team another boost.  Players aren't getting yanked quickly, and they're playing through mistakes and being given more of an opportunity to succeed.


It's still not a pretty thing. UCLA is averaging over 17 turnovers a game in its last three outings.  But the turnovers are more of a ballhandling variety as opposed to forcing play on the offensive end.  UCLA is still playing fairly poorly on the defensive side of the ball. Ryan Hollins is very inconsistent at center, which was expected as a pretty raw freshman, flashing his athleticism at times but at others being hurt by his inexperience.


With the win over Oregon State, UCLA is now in the driver's seat to gain a berth in the Pac-10 tournament.  It now not only could overtake Washington, which currently also has 4 conference wins, but has a shot at Oregon State and USC, both with just five conference victories.



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