It's funny. A fan base can get so used to things going their way that they don't even realize what little bitches they become when the tide starts to turn. For two and a half decades, Arizona has been led by one of college basketball's Eddie Haskells. Mike Kzysrcksvisklseiski is the same way. These are coaches who seem so friendly and gentle in interviews and when away from the court, but who spend approximately 39:55 of a 40 minute game berating officials and whining like children. In their defense, it works. For years, each team has gotten virtually every call. Hell, Lute didn't even pick up a technical when he ran across the floor to call Lucas Johnson "crazy" in 2000. And somehow they had no problem with the officiating the regional final that season when six Illinois players fouled out, and no Wildcat had more than three fouls.
But times change, coaches change, and standards are replaced. For the seventh consecutive time, UCLA defeated Arizona, despite a great performance from Jordan Hill, and a "better than he usually does against UCLA" performance from Chase Buddinger. It wasn't enough to overcome 24 and 15 from Kevin Love (10-11 from the free throw line), and 16 points from Darren Collison, who continues to be hot from long range (2-3 in this one).
In a fairly surprising development, Arizona got more minutes, and more production, from its bench than UCLA. Part, perhaps most, of that was due to foul trouble, particularly from starter Fendi Onobun, who lasted only 13 minutes before fouling out. Jamelle Horne also struggled with foul trouble, and Jordan Hill caught the bug in the second half.
On the other side, every Bruin starter played at least 33 minutes. What looked like a deep bench at the beginning of the season has been dramatically shortened, and that could cause problems for the Bruins down the stretch. Chace Stanback has been somewhat disappointing in that regard. Note that I'm in no way calling him a bust. Very few freshman come in and contribute right away, but the Bruins benefited the last two years from unexpected contributions from Darren Collison and Russel Westbrook. Both of those players have proven that their freshman contributions were no flukes. They're very special players, and not everyone can bring what they've brought. But of all the bench guys, I figured Stanback might be the guy who could give them a five minute shot in the arm from game to game, but it never materialized. Nikola Dragovic has been a bit of disappointment as well. If anyone could have replaced Mike Roll's shooting, a desperate need for this team, Dragovic figured to be the guy, but he's struggled with his shot all year.
McKale is never an easy place to leave victorious, but Bruins managed to do it yet again, and now they'll fight for a number one seed this week at home against the Bay Area schools. Beat Stanford and they clinch the Pac 10 title. Lose, and they may not be the top seed in the conference tournament. And if they win that game, they absolutely cannot afford a let-down against Berkeley on Saturday. The West Coast road to the Final Four is theirs for the taking. Now they just need to get it done on the court.