Trailing USC in the first half, UCLA and its fans needed a source of inspiration.
And who better to provide such motivation than the Trojan slayer himself, UCLA football’s former running back Johnathan Franklin.
The Bruins’ all-time leading career rusher took center stage during a timeout, thanking fans for their support as he received a standing ovation from the Pauley Pavilion crowd.
But he had one last request for the Bruin faithful – he wanted to lead them in an 8-clap. And the UCLA fans in attendance didn’t disappoint, providing one of the loudest ovations Pauley Pavilion saw all night.
But men’s basketball’s performance against the Trojans was unlike that of Franklin against the rival school.
The Trojans and the Arizona State Sun Devils were two of the less acclaimed teams in the Pac-12 conference, yet they account for two of the Bruins’ three conference losses.
Coach Ben Howland was quick to recognize how deceptively well these teams have been performing as of late.
“We lost to a top-10 team in Oregon,” Howland said. “ASU is very good. USC has played the toughest schedule in conference and their seniors really stepped up (Wednesday night). Wesley was very effective. ’SC is doing a good job right now.”
But the Bruins weren’t of much help to themselves against what Howland considered to be stiff competition.
UCLA shot 38.2 percent from the field against USC and 34.7 percent against Arizona State. For extended periods of time against both teams, the Bruins went cold on the offensive end of the floor while losing traction on the defensive end – a disastrous combination.
“Gotta be a shooting slump,” said redshirt senior point guard Larry Drew II. “Guys have been missing shots that they usually make. We just have to get up more shots in the gym or focus more or whatever it may be. It’s obviously affecting our games. We’re athletes and we have to overcome that.”
The shooting struggle came in plain view of one of the greatest shooters in the history of the game – Reggie Miller, who was in attendance to have his jersey retired among the other greats that have graced Pauley Pavilion.
Miller was surprised to see his name in the rafters among those he had idolized growing up. He didn’t expect to see his name and number retired, especially considering that Ed O’Bannon’s No. 31 had been retired already.
“I thought those days had passed by,” Miller said. “I never thought something like this would happen. When you think about all the great players that have come through this building, I’m not even close on the radar to a lot of them. It’s a little humbling.”
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