The month of December began with the UCLA Bruins resembling a potential FEMA relief destination, with player defections, losses to seemingly inferior teams, and loud cries from many directions for the end of the Ben Howland era. Well, five straight wins later, including tonight’s over number seven Missouri – the first Bruin win over a top-10 non-conference opponent since 2007 – and the now up-tempo, run and gun and penetrate Bruins have ended December looking like a cohesive, well-coached machine, ready to explode through the conference season.
The Bruins have averaged 93 points over their last four games (up 18 points per game over the first nine) and except for a few lapses, especially with some ill-fated attempts at a zone, played reasonably good defense against Mizzou. They had little answer for the dynamic passing of Phil Pressey, though, who put on a clinic while setting a school record with 19 assists. The three stooges who filled in for the Lakers’ during Steve Nash’s absence could take a lesson on playing point guard from him.
There are still headaches for Howland to deal with, now primarily precipitated by little-used freshman Tony Parker, and his tweets. Parker has recently tweeted as to his displeasure in Los Angeles and with his lack of playing time. Parker is a talented guy and Howland needs to find him more time on the court and keep him relatively happy and in Westwood. Without him, the Bruins would be down to a super skimpy seven man rotation and they absolutely will need minutes from another big guy before this season is over.
On another note, it was great to hear Bill Walton back broadcasting for ESPN. He is one-of-a-kind and adds great entertainment as well as expertise to any basketball broadcast.