Heartbreak: UCLA Men’s Basketball loses nail-biter to Washington, 71-69

Ben Howland is still taking his playbook, going home

I want to cry.

I want to cry, not because we lost a close game. I want to cry because we lost this close game. Bruins across the nation may be getting tired of the phrase “turning the corner” but a win against one of the top-ranked teams in the Pac-12, in the loudest arena in the conference, while we’re just two games back from the top spot? That would have been turn-the-corner-esque.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

UCLA lost to U-Dub 71-69 on Thursday night. While the score may indicate that Washington survived a “scare,” that wasn’t the case at all — UCLA jumped on the Huskies early in the second half and, with minutes to go, our Bruins dropped a 10-point lead within a matter of seconds. The Huskies’ late surge definitely had something to do with it, but as the story of our season has been, we crumbled late. Shoddy decision-making, poor shot selection and really terrible defense down the stretch doomed us.

Because, with five minutes left to go in this contest, our Bruins held the Huskies (who average 77 points per game) to 53 points while we mounted 63 on their asses. While we managed to score six points in those last five minutes, we let the home team put up over 20 points to close the damn thing out.

The implications for the win would’ve been surreal. We would’ve probably gotten our first road win outside of Los Angeles (we beat uSc on the “road”), and arguably the most important one of the season. We would’ve put ourselves in position to have an outside (but not too outside) shot to take a lead in the Pac-12 standings. At the very least, we might’ve begun to make the case for a bid to the Dance this marge. Instead, here we are, at 12-10 overall and 5-5 in conference play.

The obvious narrative is that of Coach Ben Howland’s seat, and its current temperature. And while my heart, filled with emotion, even 12 hours after the fact, keeps saying, FIRE HIM! FIRE THAT MOTHERF***ER, my brain, cold and calculated, says we still need to have him for one more year. Despite the setbacks that Howland has suffered, it’s the 2012 recruiting class that’s worth keeping him around for, namely to keep us in contention for the top prospect in the nation, Shabazz Muhammad.

Things are going to get funky here in Westwood. I ask you, reader, one more time: Should Howland get fired?

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