Ben Howland Saves His Job With Win Over Missouri

By michaelcronin
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Wow. What a game in Westwood. The UCLA Bruins and Missouri Tigers went back and forth and in the end the Bruins “kids” saved Ben Howland his job.

Given all the controversy surrounding the program over the last year or so following a sports magazine expose, the mediocre teams he’s put out there three out of the last four years and the recent transfers, this program needed a signature win. They got it tonight.

The biggest difference the last few weeks has been Howland’s willingness to let his athletes just play. For years, he was maligned for playing too deliberate, basically allowing football to be played on the hardwood, but he could get away with it given his three straight Final Four appearances.

To UCLA fans, though, that seems years ago and given the state of college hoops, it was. Something needed to change to give this team a rebirth. We all know the defense wasn’t going to be a strength of this team given the current roster. There’s no Luc Richard Mbah a Moute coming through that door to shutdown the oppositions best scorer. They needed to give themselves another chance to compete.

With the lack of strength in the rest of the Pac-12, I think they’ve actually got a chance to grab the league title. Besides the Arizona Wildcats, UCLA to me is the most talented team. The Washington Huskies are completely dysfunctional, the Oregon Ducks are in a developmental year and the Colorado Buffaloes can’t score.

The key for me is the Wear twins. They’ve got to give the Bruins something up front. David Wear is more of a threat inside the paint while Travis Wear likes to shoot the face up jumper. However, both are versatile and need to continue to score at a high rate.

I’d also like to see more minutes for Tony Parker. Sure he’s a mess offensively but defensively he should be able to make a significant impact, especially against the more traditional bigs like Tony Woods of Oregon.

I think that Howland has to continue to work with his 2-3 zone. He’s experimented with it at times and it’s seen some limited success. However, this will change with play up front. Confidence offensively tends to translate to the defensive end. I can’t believe it but I already trust Larry Drew now and Shabazz Muhammad has proven himself for the most part.

This was the marquee win UCLA needed. The Texas Longhorns win basically does nothing so they’ll need double digits wins in the league to get in the NCAA tournament. We’ve got a long way to go but this was a great start, or restart, if you will.

Like my article? Hate it? Let me know on Twitter (@tmichaelcronin). I look forward to your thoughts.

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