UCLA BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK: Bruins believe that another big run is coming
By Jon Gold Staff Writer
Long Beach Press-Telegram
Posted: 12/19/2011 11:46:46 PM PST
Updated: 12/19/2011 11:47:01 PM PST
Roughly a year ago, UCLA was in a similar position.
The Bruins are 5-5, one year after a 4-4 start had fans horrified at the prospects of a second straight losing season.
What happened next for UCLA last year?
A 16-3 streak.
The Bruins, winners of three straight heading into tonight's contest against UC Irvine, say they believe they have it in them for another run.
"Basketball is a game of ups and downs, and I'm sure we'll have some times when we're having a drought. But I think we can definitely make a push," said junior point guard Lazeric Jones, who has made a push of his own the last few weeks, raising his team-leading scoring average to 13.6 points per game. "We just have to stick to our principles. I preach that all the time."
With the Bruins coming off an 82-39 win over woeful UC Davis, it appears the sermon is sinking in.
Time was, a 40-point win over the Aggies would have barely registered a blip on the radar. But these Bruins lost to Loyola Marymount and Middle Tennessee.
"We've got a lot of new pieces, so it was definitely a comfort factor trying to get worked out," said sophomore forward David Wear, one of the new pieces after transferring from North Carolina. "We had some defensive breakdowns because we weren't really familiar with playing with each other. But as the season's gone forward, we realize where we fit in."
Head coach Ben Howland was quick to shoot down comparisons to last year's team - "Last year we had two kids who are in the NBA; those guys were pretty good players" - but the players said that familiar feeling is setting in.
The key going forward now? Stop looking backward.
"We're not looking at our losses," Jones said.
"We're looking at the wins we can gain, at the team we can become at the end of the season."
You'd expect some of the Bruins' positive outlook has to do with the struggles of the rest of the Pac-12, which included Washington's 92-73 home loss to South Dakota State on Sunday.
"You see there? I didn't even know they lost," Jones said. "My parents say I have a problem with that, too. I really don't pay attention to things like that. I'm really a stickler on staying focused on what you have going on in your life, keeping tunnel vision."
Bumps and bruises
Sophomore forward Travis Wear returned to practice on Monday after missing six days - and two games - with a skin infection on his left foot. The Bruins' second-leading scorer was hospitalized mid-week last week but is expected to play against the Anteaters.