From Vinny Bonsignore…
At the end of a long, dreary Monday came a glimmer of hope for UCLA.
The Bruins basketball team showed definite signs of waking up from its early season slumber in a 62-39 win over Pepperdine at the Sports Arena.
Lost in all the drama unfolding across the hall with the UCLA football team, which culminated Monday with the firing of underachieving head coach Rick Neuheisel, is the underwhelming start by the Bruins on the hardwood.
The back-to-back losses to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee State mixed in with some off-court turmoil by temperamental forward Reeves Nelson and a pair of blowout setbacks in Hawaii to Kansas and Michigan created a worst-case scenario for a team looking to rebound from two relatively down seasons.
Then came Monday and the definite step in the right direction the Bruins took against Pepperdine, by far their most convincing, complete performance of the season.
For the first time all year UCLA (2-4) successfully defended the perimeter, especially through a first half in which Pepperdine managed to make just 5 of 19 shots from the field while shooting a dismal 26.3 percent from the field.
Best of all was the 0-for-3 the Waves (3-3) shot from 3-point range, as the Bruins have had particular trouble slowing teams down from behind the ark.
Pepperdine finished the night making 15 of 48 shots and 3 of 9 three-pointers, with Taylor Darby scoring nine to lead the way.
“Our need for a win tonight was exemplified by how hard we played defensively,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “Our team defense was by far our best effort of the year. That’s how we have to play.”
Here’s what Dan Guerrero told me about specific facility upgrades:
“Spaulding were looking to improve. We’ve already met with campus architect about facility that can be utilized for a training table, possibly academics for football, really to augment what we have existing in the football program. We’re not sure whether the footprint of Spaulding enables to do that. The constraint that we have in a lot of respects is we’re on a postage stamp, and there’s a master plan for every square inch of this place. But we’re working on what we can garner on campus for additional facilities.”
UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel:
On finding out about being fired:
“We all know what we’re getting into when we get into this profession. I’m excited for this chance on Friday, and if it’s going to be my last time at UCLA, I hope it’s special.”
On the reasons of the decision:
“I didn’t ask. I thanked Dan for the opportunity. I don’t need reasons. Certainly when you’re UCLA coach, you’d like to play better against USC. When you lose in fashion we did, that’s a difficult pill to swallow.”
On talking to the players:
“I have not had a chance to talk with players. We have practice at 5 and i’ll have chance to make sure they understand it’s not about me, it’s about us. We get to tee it up against very, very talented Oregon team.
On his future:
“This has kind of hit me between the eyes a little bit. I’ve been kind of on one track, which is to do the best I can with this particular team. That will be the case at least through Friday. then we’ll make decisions about which course to take. I love coaching, I know that.”