Saturday, January 21, 2006

West Virginia 60; UCLA 56

A tale of two halves. The Mountaineers shut down the Bruins offense, and pretty much had their way at the other end in the first half and for about the first five minutes of the second half as they built a 20 point lead. For the last 15 minutes of the game, Jordan Farmar took matters into his own hands, while Ryan Hollins actually showed up, and the Bruins cut into the lead, and had an opportunity to tie the game, down by three with six seconds to play, before Mike Gansey stole the ball from Jordan Farmar and salted the game away.

As awful as the Bruins played for the first 25 minutes, there were some positives to take from this game:
  1. Aaron Afflalo and Mike Roll were a combined 1-17 in this game, and that's not going to happen again. Credit the Mountaineer defense for some of that, credit that pathetic Pac 10 officials for at least one of those, but that's not going to happen again. Sometimes you just don't have it, and today, they didn't have it.
  2. The Bruins made a tremendous effort in the second half to get the game back to a point where they had a chance to win. It's possible, though perhaps unlikely, that these teams could meet in the NCAA tournament, and if that happens, the Bruins know that for a big stretch of this game, they dominated. Mentally, that's important. I could tell you why I think so, but you'd probably laugh, and and it would take a longer post.
  3. Jordan Farmar is starting to shake his offensive slump.
  4. I'm going to talk about this all year, but this team's window is next year. What we saw was a bunch of freshman and sophomores (and Ryan Hollins) playing a bunch of well coached seniors. This season presents the rare opportunity for the Bruins to compete while also learning a lot. This is just one more learning experience.
  5. Finally, this isn't a conference game. Sure, it's national TV. It's important. But they lost to a higher ranked team, and they acquitted themselves pretty well. And ultimately, they still lead the Pac 10.
Once again, the Pac 10 officials show that they're just flat out incompetent. Not biased, mind you, just incompetent. A WVU guard slams into Ryan Hollins, not foul. Aaron Afflalo nailed from behind on a layup attempt, no foul. And the coup de gras, Ryan Hollins hammers Pittsnogle at the three point line, no foul; Darren Collison hammered on a drive, no call; Jordan Farmar breathes on Mike Gansey, foul. The lack of consistency, the lack of recognition of the flow of the game, and the flat out lack of competence. The Pac 10 is the worst officiated conference in college basketball (and yes, these were Pac 10 officials).

Finally, I need to make the following point. I really think this game is going to be valuable for the Bruins. It's not going to do a thing to their NCAA resume. It helps their strength of schedule. It doesn't affect their position in the conference. It provides a great learning experience and some valuable exposure. But let's remember, these are the types of games that Ben Howland, God love him, wants to eliminate. The extra game during U$C week. The intersectional battles against good teams. He didn't schedule these games at Pitt, and he's been reluctant to schedule them at UCLA.

So to sum up, a very poor first half, a solid second half, and a good learning experience at essentially no cost. There are reasons to be optimistic.

1 comment:

The Chronicler said...

I've just started to come off the ledge on this one (just in time for Jake Plummer to push me onto another ledge, though that was more expected). The first half was one of the worst first halves I can remember seeing -- it reminded of some game against Kansas in the Lavin era, must have been around 1996 or 1997, where they just came in and made fools of us.

Obviously, the second half was better. I can't get mad at Jordan for losing that ball at the end; he single-handedly dragged us back into the game, with some help from, of all people, Ryan Hollins.

You're right that Afflalo probably won't have too many games like this. But this is a team right now that relies on two guys to create their offense; if one goes cold, the other one usually doesn't have enough to make it work.

I too have thought all along that next year was our year, but we've shown such good flashes that it's easy to get hopes up. I have to keep telling myself, "We're starting three freshmen and two sophomores, we're starting three freshmen and two sophomores ..."