January 30, 2013

It seemed almost too cruel that on the night UCLA retired the jersey of one of the game’s all-time great three point shooters, that was exactly the shot the Bruins couldn’t hit when it mattered most.

Yes, Reggie Miller did walk through those doors, but this time in a suit, not in sneakers. Though it’s not outside of reason to think, even at age 47 and in dress shoes, Reggie could’ve done better than shooting 2 of 19 from beyond the arc, which was UCLA’s finally tally from downtown.

The USC Trojans defeated the Bruins 75 – 71 in overtime in the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion. Twice, the Bruins needed a big thee and both times, it just wouldn’t drop. The first was at the end of regulation after UCLA had battled back from a 15 point deficit. With the game tied and 3.5 seconds left, Larry Drew II got a decent look at what could’ve been the game winning shot, but it rimmed out. And then, with 7 seconds remaining in overtime, freshman Shabazz Muhammad, needed to add 3 more points to his game high 22, but drew the back of the iron.

That must’ve been tough to watch for a guy who has made so many.

On the other end of the floor the Bruins would’ve given many more a UCLA legend a headache. Unable to get stops for most of the night, it was the second chance opportunities the Trojans got that proved to be the dagger. Every time USC needed an extra possession they seemed to find a way to get one. Jio Fontan and Aaron Fuller lead the scoring charge for USC with 15 points each. Eric Wise posted a double-double scoring 12 and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Oh well, Reggie was never known for his defense or rebounding either.

UCLA provided a decent atmosphere but the acoustics in the arena make it tough for it to maintain any consistent noise level. The band and the student section could both be at full blast, but on the other side of the arena, the sound seemed muted and almost like pleasant background noise. Imagine having the game on television in your house, at a volume that allowed you to talk pleasantly with people, but just loud enough that you knew the game was still on. An interesting thing to experience live, no doubt.

Otherwise, ascetically the new Pauley is fantastic. The concourse is wide, the seats are new and the sight lines capture both the action on the floor and the updated score and stat boards. The setting feels very much like being in a tennis stadium with a box-like set up that draws your eyes down and to center court. Perhaps the best feature though, were the amount of TV monitors at the concession stands and memorabilia stores. Timing it right, it was possible to leave at the start of a media time out, get in line and order, watch 2 or 3 plays while in line and wait for the next dead ball to return to your seats, not missing any action. That would be impressive for an NBA arena, for a college venue, it’s incredible.

The most interesting match up all night was watching Larry Drew II chase Jio Fontan, often for a full 94 feet. Both players have exceptional speed and even more quickness. Fontan is a natural scorer and has the ability to carry his team offensively. Drew II is a traditional point guard who, when attacking with purpose, might have one of the quickest moves to the basket. Seeing that much speed almost mirror itself was captivating enough to draw your eyes off of the ball during live play.

At halftime, during the presentation of his jersey, UCLA showed a video montage of Reggie Miller’s playing days at UCLA. Never the one to miss an opportunity to entertain, Miller’s first words were, “Let’s bring back those short shorts I was wearing in that video.” When the game was over, most UCLA fans would’ve agreed, as long as the short shorts that came back, also brought Reggie with them.

Up Next:: Round 2: Feb 24th at USC

Article by Guest Writer, Scott Christopher (@ScottC247)