The UCLA athletic department posted a video to YouTube last spring promoting new Pauley Pavilion.
“No building has been home to more excitement, more victories and more NCAA titles,” the voiceover said. “UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion: home of champions.”
Yet midway through the new building’s inaugural conference season, there has been little excitement. UCLA’s home conference record stands at 3-2, jus
t a game over .500. The Bruins have lost two straight home games to No. 19 Oregon and unranked USC, not to mention the November loss to Cal Poly, whose only other road win came at UC Riverside.
The Bruins (16-6, 6-3 Pac-12) are running out of time to spruce up their home record as more road games remain than home games.
They’ll get a chance at redemption this weekend as they welcome Washington (13-9, 5-4) to the renovated arena tonight while Washington State awaits on Saturday.
UCLA’s leading scorer – freshman Shabazz Muhammad – missed practice Tuesday because of lingering effects from the flu but coach Ben Howland said he expects him to play.
The Bruins will need him to if they want to up their home resume. In conference play, Muhammad’s scoring average is three points better at home (18.4) than on the road (15.25).
Asked after the overtime loss to USC if he would address his team about taking pride in defending its home court, Howland said: “I think that’s pretty self-explanatory. That’s a pretty basic thing. We just can’t expect to win because we’re at home. We have to show up and be tough.”
The Bruins could only watch as the Trojans threw a party at center court. The first crosstown rivalry game in new Pauley Pavilion belonged to them.
“We were really angry at ourselves,” freshman guard Kyle Anderson said.
Angry perhaps because they were one defensive stop away from being tied for first place in the conference.
“It was a reality check,” redshirt junior forward Travis Wear added. “You can get beat on any night.”
After his team’s first road game of the season, a narrow win over Utah, Howland said he would “love to never leave Pauley” but he may have changed his tune.
He was alerted to a statistic on a teleconference that said home teams are only winning 57 percent of the time in conference play so far this season.
“When we’re on the road, there are fewer distractions and it can be a good thing,” Howland said Tuesday. “It’s just you and no one else, and you don’t have as many distractions as you do in your own environment.”
With reports from Ryan Menezes, Bruin Sports senior staff.
Email Strong at [email protected].