In rebounding from an inexplicable loss, teams are often presented with a crucial fork in their seasons: Either forget the loss entirely and move on or dig deeper and break down crucial team issues.
According to redshirt senior forward Travis Wear, there will be no shortcuts for the UCLA men’s basketball team.
“You can’t put this in the back of your mind. You have to go home and you have to work,” said Wear after Sunday’s loss to Oregon State. “This happened. We lost a game that we needed to win and we need to work from here on out to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Whether or not UCLA faces a loss as befuddling as Sunday’s at Oregon State again this season is yet to be determined. But as Wear pointed out, UCLA’s remaining games will be played on a need-to-win basis.
Allowing the Beavers to chomp away at what was a 11-point lead in the first half, the Bruins now sit in the midst of a Pac-12 logjam. A win from then-No. 1 Arizona at Cal on Saturday night coupled with a UCLA win over Oregon State the next day would have made the Bruins the Pac-12’s most isolated team, an even two games between No. 1 and No. 3 in the standings.
Instead, Cal’s Justin Cobbs hit a game-winning 17-footer which handed now No. 2 Arizona its first loss of the season. Meanwhile, the Bruins fell 71-67 in Corvallis, throwing them into a tie for No. 2 with the Golden Bears.
The masses aren’t far behind either. Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford, Oregon State and Washington all sit just one game back at 5-4 in conference play.
UCLA officially reached the Pac-12 halfway point Sunday, signaling a frenzied approach into March, or, more simply, crunch time. An uptick in pressure brings forth an ultimatum for teams looking to make an NCAA tournament push, enacting a fight or flight mechanism. The Bruins have at least been present in each of ESPN’s Bracketology projections this year, but on Sunday they were all flight.
“You’re in February. February’s the month that sets up March and you’re right there in the league race,” said coach Steve Alford on Sunday. “We did a lot of different things that we don’t practice (against OSU). That’s what was most frustrating.”
The Bruins simultaneously benefit and burden from a bye on Thursday, giving them an extra two days to prepare for a Saturday jaunt over to USC, a team they torched 107-73 on Jan. 5 on a night in which they shot nearly 58 percent from the field.
The bye can act both as respite for a road trip that proved rough on the mind and a period to second-guess what was amiss in Corvallis. After a short vacation, rebounding returned as a problem on Sunday, as did shooting. Where does the cleanse start? Square one?
“(We need to be) getting back to basic things. We lost on the glass,” said sophomore guard/forward Kyle Anderson when asked that same question on Sunday. “We have to focus more on winning the glass because every time we do well on the glass, it ends in a good win for us.”
While freshman guard Zach LaVine and sophomore guard Jordan Adams combined for a 1-for-16 effort from the field Sunday, the Bruins were helped by what may have been a slight breakthrough in Bryce Alford’s shooting game.
The freshman guard had been 3-for-16 from the 3-point range in the seven games leading up to Sunday’s contest, but shot a team best 3-of-5 from deep against the Beavers.
As a whole, however, UCLA shot just 38.6 percent from the field, leading Anderson to cast aside all moral victories.
“It’s not about individuals. It’s a team game. It doesn’t matter,” said Anderson of the team’s shooting effort. “It’s not two or three or four: It’s all 15 of us. We can’t single anybody out, it’s all 15 of us.”