Monday, December 30, 2013
Bruins Bruise Bama 75-67
Another close game, another loss. Releford didn't start, apparently due to missing his flight back from KC after the holiday break. I have mixed feeling about Grant's handling of the situation. I could see just making him run more in practice or something, but moreso it's disappointing that our senior leader would make such a mistake. He's been suspended or otherwise subjected to discipline every year he's been here, but in fairness each infraction has been relatively minor in nature. As a result of his suspension, Shannon Hale cracked the starting lineup. We also started Carl again for whatever reason. It's a little concerning that we are almost to conference play and still don't seem to have a settled starting lineup.
Releford made up for his transgressions by nearly winning the game for us single-handedly. He scored 34 points and made some incredible shots down the stretch to keep us in the game. Unfortunately, it was the same story as every other game against a decent opponent this year. We missed some key free throws and more importantly couldn't get a defensive rebound in crucial possessions late in the game, leading to another loss.
As great as Releford played, his stats are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it was a remarkable performance and you have to appreciate his effort. On the other hand, I felt like he tried to do too much late in the game. While he made some circus shots and made couple of 3's with hands in his face, his decision making indicated that he lacked confidence in his teammates. I have no problem with that, I lack confidence in his teammates too, and judging by their body language and own shot selection, Relly's teammates even lack confidence in themselves right now. To some degree, Releford's great performance was a symptom of a larger team problem right now.
The substitution pattern, beyond the wacky starting lineup, I thought made more sense in this game. Shannon Hale scored 9 points and 9 rebounds, and despite starting, Carl only saw the court for 5 minutes, and Jimmie Taylor was allowed to play long enough to grab 6 boards in 22 minutes. We only got 2 rebounds between Nick and Carl, that's not going to cut it.
For those who have been on Coach Grant about not being animated enough, he was more emotional in this game than I have ever seen him. There were a couple of occasions where I thought he would pick up a technical foul arguing with the officials. From my point of view, most of the calls he argued so adamantly appeared to be good calls. While there were a couple of blown calls as with all basketball games, overall I thought it was a fairly well officiated game.
The last call that Coach Grant was extremely upset about was in the final minute after we called our last timeout. UCLA was at the line, and when we got the ball, Rodney Cooper drove in against 3 bigger Bruins in the paint. Whatever contact there was, it looked like it was mostly initiated by Coop. The bigger issue in my opinion is why, out of a timeout, our "play" is seemingly to have Coop just drive to the basket come hell or high water, regardless of the circumstances? Even if he somehow got a shot on the rim in that situation, we didn't even have anybody else down there to get the rebound.
It's frustrating that this team continues to show just enough to get your hopes up every game, when we tied it around the one minute mark I actually thought, "maybe, just maybe, this time will be different. Maybe Relly can do it by himself." Nope.
Pauley Pavilion seats about 15,000, and their crowd was not very good considering the history of that program. I would estimate maybe 9,000 or so were there. Similar to our games, there were more people in the 200 level, due to their ridiculous pricing structure. I paid $50 for my ticket, and that got me a seat on the very top row, but I was able to sneak down into the top row of the 100 level at halftime. The pics above were taken from my respective seats. From the top row, the ceiling is very low and you can't see the boards that show the stats. Lower level tickets had a face value of up to $250. I was surprised that I didn't see a single person scalping tickets outside of the arena. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Bama fans there, I would guess we had close to 500, with at least a smattering of crimson in every section.
The atmosphere was eerily quiet for most of the game. The Bruin fans really didn't get loud at all until the last minute, which was the only time in the game than anybody other than the student section stood up. They don't seem as passionate as the fans of the other blue blood schools that I've encountered, but they were all very knowledgeable. They were also very gracious hosts and there were no negative comments or trash talk whatsoever.
One thing I will miss when the inevitable happens and Anthony Grant is no longer our coach, he at least schedules away games and tournaments in desirable locales. While I'm generally not a huge fan of LA as a whole, I had a good time in Santa Monica, drove up to Malibu, and enjoyed the pool at my hotel in Beverly Hills (the scenery there was exponentially better than the Buffalo convention in Tampa a couple of weeks ago). The pic above is the best I could do with my cell phone, but if you look closely you can see a couple of whales off the coast of Malibu.
Up next, Robert Morris Colonials come to Tuscaloosa for a 4:30 pm tipoff next Saturday. The game will be televised on CSS. Happy New Year.