Playing Inspired ...

Thanks to CBS West (per the bartenders in DC's Ugly Mug) I missed out on watching all the fun from yesterday afternoon. The UCLA game was blacked out all over Washington and instead we got an exhilarating matchup between Army v. Navy. So, instead, we out for lunch and then some coffee where we tried to watch the waning moments of the Army/Navy game hoping that we could catch the score via ticker. No such luck because CBS wasn't showing updates from the other game. I had no idea what was going on (I am still somewhat of a luddite in terms of getting scores via going online on my cell). So, about 4:05 pm EST, we went to ESPN Zone (oh yeah, we checked ... they didn't have the UCLA game either) to catch the last minutes of the Washington and Pitt game, and to see if could find out via the ESPN ticker. And then we finally found out the score. What a huge sigh of relief it was! So, to make a long story short, since I didn't watch the game yesterday, I really don't think I can share any specific reflections on the game. What I am about to share is based on the comments/observations that I've read here, and also game wrap-ups like the ones posted over at Bruin Basketball Report and LA Seitz of Chicago.

Obviously, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out (from the box score) Shipp and Collison are the two big stories from Saturday. Let me mention something about Shipp. I couldn't be happier at the fact that he had such a great game. Pucin writes today about Shipp's team-mates are ecstatic for him and how Shipp hasn't lost any of his confidence:

It was the all-around play of Shipp that had all his teammates rejoicing. Last year Shipp missed all but four games while recovering from hip surgery. Uncertain shooting has marked his slow-moving comeback -- he was under 18% from three-point range over the last eight games -- and the appearance that he was missing a step of defensive quickness and an ounce or two of rebounding ferocity.

"When Josh plays like this," Collison said, "we're tough to beat."

Shipp said an emphatic "no" when asked if he had lost confidence in his offense. Why not? "Because I know I'm a good shooter," he said.
Well, I hope Josh continues to prove me wrong, but based on his overall body of work this season and his freshman season, I just disagree with him that he is a good three point shooter. I love the fact that he has so much confidence in his game. But I also think he needs to be smart about his shots. It sounds like he had an amazing game yesterday. But it also came against a poorly coached disorganized basketball team, which doesn't know how to play fundamental defense, instead relying on ugly jungle ball. I'd love to see Shipp (and rest of his team-mates) play focused, intense, and like warriors against other teams ... that are well ... uhm ... not SOFT:


CBud could have learned to be a (Ben Ball) Warrior
Photo credit: John Miller/AP


I'd love to see Shipp stay confident, but stay consistent through the rest of the season, when he takes on teams that are much better prepared and coached. In other words, let's see how he does against the Stanford and Washington States of the world, teams that are much better coached team than a mediocre Arizona squad (which is no longer relevant and in the same league with a UCLA basketball program).

Same goes for DC. It's obvious this kid just has a mental edge of Arizona. He has owned them ever since he stepped on the court against them last year. His game is tailor made to attack and destroy a team like Arizona. However, before we get all excited about his NBA prospects, we need to remember that DC still has a lot of work to do in terms of playing defense against quicker, savvier guards, who are not morons like Shakur.

Ok ... I didn't mean to bring down the excitement from our yesterday's win. I mentioned on Friday how winning a game at McKale has always been a huge deal for the modern era UCLA basketball program. Yesterday's win was a huge win. Coach Howland reiterated that point during the post game conference (via Pucin):
When the Bruins have pleased Howland, the coach speaks in a louder voice and a rolling cadence. "This is a great win on the road here," Howland said. "Shipp had a tremendous game. Collison had 15 assists and two turnovers."

This was a game UCLA took control of immediately. Consecutive three-point baskets by Collison gave the Bruins a 23-11 lead in the first eight minutes. Arizona drew within two, fell behind by eight, then scrambled back to trail only 35-34 at halftime. Howland's only criticism of his team was lamenting that the Wildcats converted a couple of offensive rebounds in the last 90 seconds.
When a demanding and tenacious individual like Howland approves of a performance, you know it's a big deal.

Yesterday's win was also huge because it sets up the Bruin well going into their last four games. Let's hope they will use the boost from yesterday afternoon and use it inspire themselves to play 40 minutes of Ben Ball in their remaining games.

The good news is that they are all feeling healthy and good (natural after big wins). Let's hope they can stay in that fifth gear they seemed to reach when they play in huge/meaningful games with a lot at stake. From now on, every game will have ramifications in terms of seedings and impact on the conference championship. I did pick them to go 14-4 in Pac-10. Let's hope the team proves me wrong. Meanwhile, no one would be happier than yours truly if Shipp continues to make look yours truly (and many other Bruin fans who have been critical of his game (not him as a person)) like idiots by playing inspired Ben Ball rest of this season.

GO BRUINS.
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