LOS ANGELES – Despite their recent two-game losing skid, UCLA head coach Ben Howland insists it’s not time to panic. The team doesn’t need an attitude adjustment nor is it time for a “come to Jesus” meeting.
“I don’t think so,” Howland said. “We lost to a (top 25) team in Oregon at home. Arizona State’s very good (and) USC’s played the toughest schedule in the conference.”
The prescribed medication for their diagnosis is practice. Intense practice. Travis Wear suggested the team needs to “go at each other’s throats” during this time between now and their next game against Washington on Thursday.
After taking the day off to lick their wounds following Wednesday’s loss to USC, the Bruins returned to the practice floor on Friday. They’ll practice again on Saturday before taking Sunday off and will resume a regular practice week on Monday.
There are plenty of loose ends that need tying up. Since their 10-game winning streak, the Bruins have dropped three of their last four games.
In their three losses, they allowed their opponents to shoot 46.5 percent from the field. Offensively, they’re in the midst of their worst shooting slump of the season. In their last three losses, they’ve converted just 39.8 percent of their field goal attempts.
“The bottom line is we got to be more efficient offensively and we got to do a better job at that end of the floor along with the defensive end of the floor,” Howland said. “It’s a combination of both. It’s not one or the other.”
A huge part of the recent troubles could be attributed to fatigue. The Bruins absolutely ran out of gas in the second half at Arizona State in which they were outscored 39-27. Despite Wear being out of the lineup with a concussion, Tony Parker managed to only play 13 minutes against the Sun Devils.
In the overtime loss to USC, Parker played just four minutes. Shabazz Muhammad, despite being slowed by the flu, played 37 minutes.
“I got to use our bench more and that’s my fault playing those guys so many minutes,” Howland said. “I gotta do a better job of rotating Tony, David Wear, and Norman (Powell) in there for more minutes.”
The players won’t acknowledge fatigue as a factor but some are willing to admit to a lack of focus during the Friday walkthroughs before Saturday games. With just one game this week they certainly could’ve suffered from a Friday hangover on Tuesday.
“We just have to start getting on guys (and) holding guys accountable,” Larry Drew II said. “Either you want to win or you don’t want to win. We haven’t been playing winning basketball so obviously some things have to change.”
The loss to USC dropped them to fourth place in the Pac-12 standings but they received a gift from Stanford earlier this week when the Cardinal handed Oregon their first conference loss, so the Bruins remain just two games behind the Ducks in the loss column.
The only issue is they’re going to need more such gifts. The Bruins and Ducks won’t meet again during the regular season. The first step to getting back in the Pac-12 race is helping themselves and they can do that by digging themselves out of this current slump.
“We got to battle through this and learn from the adversity we’re going through right now and come back and get ready to play another tough two teams at home next week,” Howland said.