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Thoughts on the UCLA Game

In talking to my dad last night I learned a lot things that I either forgot growing up or never paid attention to in regards to sports. My dad who played Baseball at SC and who was briefly in the pros before heading to Viet Nam gave me his take on last night's loss to UCLA at Pauley Pavilion. Since I didn't see the game I relied on his thoughts about how the team played to form my own opinion.

We spoke before the game and it was his impression that while UCLA has a solid and aggressive defense SC also had a pretty good defense, though at times it has sputtered, like letting both Cal and Oregon go on late scoring runs to get back into the games. But last night for most of the game SC handled the bruins pretty well until they were exposed by their youth. He made the obvious point that SC is playing a lot freshman and that they have beating teams with more experience and probably some with more talent and that is an important piece of the puzzle.

After listening to him describe the game to me, especially the 5-point play that was caused by the technical by Loderic Stewart, I was left feeling that maybe SC still wasn't yet ready to take the next step and I said that I felt that playing UCLA close in their house wasn't enough and that we should have shut the door on this game, even more than the game at the Galen Center last month. I also said that I didn't want us to be comfortable with a "moral victory" when we have been so close beating these guys especially when very few gave us a chance to win.

My dad explained that experience is the only way that that a team can move forward and that experience comes in the forms of moral victories, or you can use the word progress. At some point though as he continued to explain, moral victories need to maturate into the real deal. He explained that Ben Howland didn't take his team to the finals in his first year and that it takes time for a team to come together and for a coach to make his impression on a team. He pointed to Pete Carroll as an example that is the most obvious, no need to go into any more detail here as the records speak for themselves.  

But here was the kicker, at least for me, he said that it's the fans that tend to bitch and moan about moral victories and that players seldom, if ever, settle for moral victories. They understand that certain things need to fall into place before you can contend for titles. The fact we are even in this position indicates that SC is on the right track, as my friend DC Trojan said eloquently.

I think that if you'd told us that the season would see two games where a Trojan team heavy on freshmen would take a lead on the Bruins and lose by 6 points, combined, to the #2 team in the country, most of use would have thought that was acceptable.

He's right, very few of us expected this sort of success and while some will call us bandwagon fans who know little or nothing about basketball it has been exciting to watch and if that brings SC more exposure then so be it. Every program has its ups and downs but the recent success on the football field has increased our craving for winning and it now spills over into basketball.

My dad agrees and he was very disappointed at last nights loss but explained, like DC Trojan, "that at the beginning of the season no one expected SC to have the success that they have enjoyed of late and because SC has not been a force in basketball for a long time that the expectations that we have in football naturally would carry over to basketball."  He also explained that those who complain about moral victories, including me, obviously have never experienced competition at this level so they couldn't possibly understand what goes through a players mind having never been there before and that the attitude comes off as being arrogant and a blow hard. He didn't mean as a dig but as an observation as someone who has been there before.

Brutally honest for sure, but that's my dad.

So while we're all disappointed about last nights loss no one feels worse than the players and while we hoped for a better outcome there is solace in knowing that we are on the right track to putting these types of games away.