UCLA basketball didn’t have high expectations this season, but UCLA basketball was at least supposed to start off strong. But UCLA couldn’t even do that, as the Bruins fell in the first overtime thriller of the new season. UCLA basketball didn’t even fall to a Pac-10 rival or traditional rival, but to Cal State Fullerton, of all upstarts. However, Cal State Fullerton came to play basketball more than UCLA did, and was able to last two overtimes before finishing the Bruins off. The opening night 68-65 loss to the Titans puts UCLA basketball in a pretty unpleasant state.
UCLA came into the season opener unranked, and with little Final Four hopes. So the Bruins hoped to start defying low expectations by handling Cal State Fullerton, as most Bruins teams do. However, the Titans had other plans, and did not wilt in Pauley Pavilion, even when the game went to a second overtime.
UCLA basketball does not usually lose to non-conference foes at home, especially to teams from the Big West like Cal State Fullerton. But these Bruins have lost all of the stars that got them to a Final Four three straight years, and the NCAA second round last year. Even when the Titans blew a few chances to put it away in regulation, and in both overtimes, UCLA couldn’t take advantage themselves.
The 68-65 double overtime loss is the worst possible start for UCLA basketball. Perhaps it will not be a sign of things to come, and these new Bruins will gel together by March. But coach Ben Howland has to fix things quicker now, since even gimmie victories aren’t safe anymore. And if the Bruins finish on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, a loss like this will not help the resume.
UCLA basketball is not used to rebuilding, and when they do, its usually under better circumstances. Ben Howland brought the program back to power with three straight Final Fours from 2006-08. But in each case, the Bruins could not hang another championship banner, and didn’t come close last season.
Howland’s legacy may be weighed down by his missed opportunities for a title, especially if he doesn’t get too close to another shot for a while. This 2009-10 version of UCLA basketball wasn’t expected to get him closer, even before last night.
After losing to Cal State Fullerton, it may just be a struggle to get to March Madness, unless these Bruins find a new identity soon. Thanks to Cal State Fullerton, they have less time to get one than they had hoped.
Dime Magazine- “UCLA blew it last night”
San Francisco Chronicle- “UCLA basketball shocked by Cal State Fullerton 68, Bruins 65 (2OT)”