It’s Time to Celebrate, Even at 1-2 : UCLA: Banner for 11th NCAA basketball title goes up at Pauley Pavilion tonight before struggling Bruins play Cal State Fullerton.
The lights will dim, the music will play, and another piece of blue-and-gold fabric will become a permanent part of the UCLA dream, lifted into the Pauley Pavilion rafters.
Then this season’s team, off to a 1-2 start after its predecessor had won UCLA’s 11th national title last season, will get ready to play basketball again.
How do you look back seven months when it’s uncomfortable to look back seven days?
“I’m looking at it as kind of the final chapter of that champion season--it’ll close the book,” said assistant coach Steve Lavin of the 30-minute banner-raising ceremony that will precede tonight’s game at Pauley Pavilion against Cal State Fullerton. “And I’m anxious for us to get on with this year, and keep improving.
“There might have been a lot more enjoying the ceremony and celebrating if we’d won three games in Maui. When you’re 1-2, you’re a lot more concerned and focused on winning the next game.”
At last week’s Maui Invitational, UCLA was beaten by Santa Clara and Vanderbilt teams that slowed the pace, hounded the Bruins’ erratic half-court offense, and pulled away in the final minutes.
The last time UCLA was under .500 was in 1987, when Walt Hazzard’s team opened 1-4.
In all three Maui games, including a 68-57 victory over Wisconsin, the Bruins failed to score 80 points. Last season’s team averaged 87.5 points.
“I was a little surprised that we didn’t share the ball as much as we thought we would.” Lavin said. “We didn’t make the extra pass like we’d done earlier in the intrasquad game and the exhibition games, which really was a strength in those games.
“In Maui, we kind of got in a hurry, and turned the ball over a lot.”
Coach Jim Harrick pointed to four problem areas in Maui: UCLA committed 51 turnovers in three games, made only 55% of its free throws, went long stretches without scoring, and was not consistent defensively.
“Mentally, I think we assumed we’d win,” Harrick said. “We were tied with nine minutes to go in both games we got beaten. I think, mentally, they felt, ‘We’re UCLA, we’re going to win this game.’ And that’s not the way it works.”
As a result of the two losses, UCLA dropped from No. 4 in the Associated Press preseason poll to No. 23 this week.
Harrick is not sure what to expect from his team after the players experience the emotions stirred by tonight’s ceremony.
“I’m glad we’re putting up a banner,” Harrick said. “I would rather put one up than not. . . . Guess that comes with the territory. We knew it was going to happen.
“I’d like them to be more emotionally ready to play than we were in Hawaii. Emotion is part of the game in athletics.”