PLAY IT AGAIN, BEN
"Play it once, Ben...for old times' sake."
"I don't know what you mean, Tightwad."
"Play it Ben. Play 'Cal Collapses in the Second Half of Big Games.'"
Yes, Ben knows that tune. We all know it, and it doesn't get any better or easier to accept with repetition.
When you shoot the lights out and you still trail the #1 RPI school in the nation on the road at halftime, well, you know what's going to happen to our short-handed Bears. Didn't make the inevitable second-half pistol whipping any less painful. Let's examine the wreckage:
* The 25-5 run in the second half turned a competitive game into a complete laugher. After a season of outstanding ball control, Cal finally lost it in the 2nd half tonight. The final line says 12 turnovers, and that tells only half the story. In addition to the seven steals and fast-break conversions, UCLA's defensive intensity interrupted Cal's motion and limited their good looks in the second half.
* Defensively the Bears really took a step backward - and UCLA was incredibly disciplined about breaking down Cal's defense and getting the ball inside. UCLA shot 61%, and it felt like they shot 85% in the second half (I don't have the breakdown yet). The Bruins attempted only eight 3's all night.
* Ben Howland is a great game coach. We knew that, but UCLA's in-game adjustments were just beautiful, if painful to watch. They still have a first-half issue, though, that might cause problems in the NCAAs.
* Josh Shipp was tremendous (22 points/6 assists) and did a nice job defensively. Lorenzo Mata somehow went 8 of 9 from the foul line. He and Aboya get no pub nationally, but they are really important parts of a very good basketball team.
* One bright spot for Cal was the play of Ryan Anderson, who appears to be back in his groove with a 21 point/6 rebound performance.
* Elsewhere around the Pac, Oregon got a big win over the Cougs that should help their seeding in the Tourney (and ensure the Cougs rise no higher than a 3 seed), and I'm glad I'm not a Washington fan.
* SC is next up for our battered Bears. They got over on the Cardinal tonight and prompted the Comical to say they've punched their NCAA ticket, so let's hope for a letdown on Saturday. As noted earlier, SC is the better opportunity for a W, as long as Braun plays a different song at halftime.