Court Visions: Figuring out the Bruins’ act

Have you ever seen that act called “Quick Change”? It’s mesmerizing.

A suited man comes out with a pretty lady. She’s wearing a bright dress. They dance together across the stage before stopping at a curtain on the floor. He pulls it up, obscuring her from the audience for no more than a second, then drops it. She’s wearing a brand new dress. They do it again. Another new dress. In some acts he even drops a bucket of confetti on the woman. New dress.

The UCLA men’s basketball team in late January probably shouldn’t leave you guessing like “Quick Change” does. But here we are after the Bruins walked away while the Trojans celebrated on the Pauley Pavilion court like they won the Super Bowl.

Larry Drew II couldn’t watch it. Travis Wear walked through the festivities with his eyes focused straight ahead at the tunnel to the locker room.

The Bruins had disguises on Wednesday, donning all blue jerseys with the socks and shoes to match.

It was appropriate for a night when the only thing we figured out about these Bruins was that we haven’t figured much out at all.

In the span of a week, we’ve seen a back-and-forth display from the Bruins. One day they’re beating Arizona on the road, another they’re getting out-hustled by Arizona State. On Wednesday, the fluctuations were happening during the game. The Bruins were trailing for most of it, put together an inspired stretch to come back from a 15-point deficit to even the game in regulation, then reverted to their sloppy rebounding ways and couldn’t grasp momentum in overtime.

Drew was fuming after his first rivalry game. The usually soft-spoken, lead-by-example point guard was animated throughout the game. He tried to pump up the crowd and took the game into his own hands by going right at the basket to score. Drew even took a crucial charge at the end of regulation that helped push the game into overtime.

Afterward, he was wondering why his effort wasn’t matched.

“I don’t think guys – for whatever reason may be – were all the way into the game on the defensive end,” Drew said. “It’s disappointing.”

I can think of some reasons, some out of their control. Shabazz Muhammad had the flu, but still managed to put up 22 points (imagine if he was healthy). Travis Wear had just come back from a concussion he suffered on the road.

Change can be a good thing, but the concept seems lost on coach Ben Howland at times.

Like on Wednesday, when he once again refused to use his three bench players to appropriately spell his starters. With the minutes David Wear, Norman Powell and Tony Parker played, it’s fair to wonder if three oxygen tanks might be a better investment for UCLA. Those three saw the court for just 16 percent of the available time and zero minutes combined in overtime. Meanwhile, UCLA was bricking away jump-shots and getting hammered on the offensive glass.

USC interim coach Bob Cantu, only on the job for a few weeks, used his bench to his advantage, giving his five subs 28 percent of the minutes. The Trojans withstood multiple players getting in foul trouble to outlast the Bruins.

Howland was again lamenting the fact that he didn’t play his reserves more often, a confession that rings hollower with every game he repeats it.

He won’t change his ways and neither will his team. The Bruins are one-dimensional, a team that needs its high-tempo offense to score and can’t adjust if the offense isn’t working. The starting five has to get the job done or this team won’t win.

The most puzzling aspect of “Quick Change” is the fact that you can never find where the lady’s old dress is after she changes into a new one. For one night in Arizona a week ago, we saw what the Bruins can be. They quickly changed.



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  • Barry Levy

    I am just wondering how long a coach gets to say things like we don’t play well against zones, I didn’t use the bench properly, I overdo time outs.

    There comes a point that if the excuses are said in response to problems, and the problems don’t get resolved, it it all on the coach.