The solid showing Saturday against Kentucky, although it resulted in a 66-62 defeat, came as a personal relief to Coach Steve Lavin, who called Friday’s loss to Maryland the most upsetting in his career.
Worse than the Maples Massacre and a 36-point loss at Duke as head coach.
Worse than the first-round tournament losses to Princeton and Tulsa as an assistant.
Those generated extreme disappointment. The 24-turnover, 33.3% shooting performance against Maryland in Bayamon, Puerto Rico was more about anger.
“I didn’t sleep [Friday] night,” Lavin said. “I probably saw 12 of those ESPN reruns. It seemed like every time they showed it--pregame, halftime, after the game [being shown live at the time]--we were getting dumped on, throwing balls in the stands. Row 5, seat 6. I told them that in my 11 years as an assistant and a head coach, this was my low point.”
The Bruins’ response against Kentucky in the third-place game of the Puerto Rico Shootout was immediate. Lavin called the first half the best 20 minutes by one of his teams in his two-plus seasons as head coach.
The play of Kentucky’s Tayshaun Prince, especially the back-to-back three-point baskets midway through the second half that sparked the 13-0 run that put the Wildcats ahead to stay, should have looked familiar to the victims.
The freshman from Dominguez High in Compton played pickup games at UCLA and against most current Bruins, either then or during high school tournaments, before heading to Lexington.
“Yeah, most of the guys I’m used to kicking around with,” he said.