Well, that was embarrassing.
The UCLA Bruins, coming off a second place finish in the Pac-10 and looking to start a streak to head into the postseason, got bounced out of the first round of the Pac-10 tournament. By a bad team. By 17 points.
The loss is somewhat reminiscent of UCLA’s loss in the first round of the conference tournament to Cal in 2007 – difference being, the 2007 loss bumped UCLA from a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament down to a 2-seed, and this one presumably bumped UCLA from a possible 5 or 6 seed (had they continued to win) down to an 8, 9 or 10 seed. Oh yeah, and this one was a total decimation.
The Bruins only scored 24 points in the first half and finished the half down 38-24. But UCLA had plenty of experience coming back from early double digit deficits in Pac-10 play (including twice against this same Oregon team), so there wasn’t much to worry about, right?
Not so fast. The Ducks had seen this story twice before, and they weren’t about to blow a double-digit lead to the Bruins a third time. The Ducks continued to put their feet on the pedal and didn’t let up in the second half, even extending the lead to 22 at one point, and UCLA never got close.
Tyler Honeycutt said, after the game: “They had the mentality that they didn’t have anything to lose,” Honeycutt said. “We came in here with a ‘too cool’ attitude.”
- Other than the Montana loss, this was probably UCLA’s worst game of the season. They lost by their largest margin of defeat of the entire year, and they shot their worst percentage of the year since the Montana game.
- Tyler Honeycutt was the only person who seemed to show up in this game, and the only Bruin to score in double figures with 19. Still, he got those numbers while shooting 5-for-13 and only 1-for-5 from beyond the arc.
- Jerime Anderson somehow turned into Ben Wallace at the free throw line, shooting only 1-of-6. It didn’t really matter since the game was never close, but not a very good sign going forward.
- Joshua Smith probably had his worst game as a Bruin, scoring only one field goal in six attempts. His problem wasn’t even foul trouble this time, as he only ended up with 3 fouls. If he’s on his game, Smith is the best weapon UCLA has, and an outing like this is unacceptable. Smith is a potential matchup nightmare and is the best chance UCLA has of upsetting some teams in the NCAA tournament, so hopefully he will step up his game for the Big Dance.
- Malcolm Lee is usually UCLA’s most consistent player, at least defensively, and even he broke down this game. He is playing through a recent injury, and maybe that was the reason he didn’t look too aggressive out there and only attempted 3 field goals and played poor defense for arguably the first time this season. Hopefully he’ll get better during the long time off period.
- UCLA allowed E.J. Singler to absolutely dominate this game, as he scored a career-high 24 points (after setting his previous career high, 22, in the game against ASU the night before.) There’s a chance UCLA might be facing Duke in the second round of the NCAA tournament, and if so, let’s hope they won’t allow E.J.’s older brother Kyle to have the same sort of success.
The first silver lining of the loss is that UCLA gets plenty of rest as they prepare to take on their opponent in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
The other silver lining is that if UCLA ended up winning the Pac-10 tournament and getting a 5-seed or 6-seed, they would probably put no effort into facing the 11/12 seed and would be the victim of an embarrassing upset in the first round. They might put on a better show against one of the top teams in the country if they end up facing a 1 or 2-seed in the second round.
Right now, the worst case scenario for the Bruins is a 10-seed. Their record and major victories definitely say they deserve better than that, but sometimes the NCAA puts a bit too much emphasis on the conference tournaments since they want to promote their importance (since the conference tournaments bring in lots of extra money). More than a few times, the selection committee has punished teams who don’t take the conference tournaments seriously or flame out early. Don’t be shocked if a few other bubble teams make a run in their own respective conference tournaments and the committee punishes UCLA by pushing them all the way down to a 10-seed in order to make a statement. (Ironically, this wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world – while the first round matchup against a 7-seed is tougher, they would get a 2-seed in the second round instead of a 1-seed. Although if the Bruins had beaten the Ducks they could have gotten a 7-seed and gotten the best of both worlds, but bygones are bygones)
Right now, the Bruins have plenty of time to rest up, try to put this loss behind them, and see where the committee sends them on Sunday night.
About the Author
Written by Josh Lehmer
2009 UCLA graduate. Worked at NBC-Los Angeles from 2008-2009, then as ESPN Production Assistant. Fan of the UCLA Bruins, Lakers, Angels, Ducks.