"It ALL STARTS with our DEFENSE"

I wrote yesterday about how we wanted our Ben Ball warriors to repeat Thursday. We wanted them to sustain the (defense generated) momentum gained from putting together probably the best all around performance of the season against the Bears.  Well they got it done yesterday afternoon.

Ben Ball warriors massacred Johnny Dawkins's Stanford team at Pauley (in front a so called television "analyst" who perfected the routine of getting massacred and humiliated in big games) sustaining the feel good vibes from last Thursday night and quashing poser Trojan football fans morons who had been quacking in the local rags, talk shows and message boards. The final score was 97-63 but honestly even that margin didn't do justice to describe the way Bruins dominated the Cards.

Yes, the offense was a thing of beauty as the Bruins sliced up the Stanford D inside and out. Still the key to Ben Ball Warriors second consecutive all around performance was the foundation of Ben Howland’s program in Westwood. I will let the Caretaker of Westwood spell it out for us (emphasis added throughout)

"I know it's boring -- I apologize -- but it's the truth," Howland said. "It all starts with our defense."

No apologies necessary coach. Not to us (and frankly no need for apologies to the media concern trolls and poser Trojan football fans morons). More from Howland’s floor general:

"To be honest, there's no magic trick to what we've been doing the last two games," guard Darren Collison said. "We just raised our level of intensity on the defensive end."

They believe a simple equation -- turnovers equal easy baskets -- has pushed the Bruins (17-4 overall) back into a tie for first in the Pac-10 standings with a record of 7-2.

Again as many of us said repeatedly here on BN the game is simple. When our warriors play their prototype shut down defense and exert all out intensity around the boards, it organically leads them to be more aggressive on offense (i.e. attacking the rim). The defense was suffocating yesterday and perhaps the most telling moment of the afternoon was this ...

3243130254_f0feec243e_b_medium
Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

... that was DC diving towards the UCLA bench (as if he was taking a swim around Malibu), going after a loose ball right after he had converted a layup from a steal. The faces in the UCLA bench and of the coaching staff tells the story. If you want to relieve that moment again check out Tele’s highlights here on leading by example. That moment to me is the hallmark of what it takes to become a ball player for Coach Howland. DC (and AA3) led by example and it rubbed off on rest of their team-mates.

As far as the offensive domination was concerned DC again pointed out it was defense which has led to the offensive aggression:

"Looking at the two games we just played, you can see that we're more aggressive on the defensive end and we created a lot of turnovers," UCLA center Alfred Aboya said. "Our defense creates offense for us. Having lost to Washington gave us more motivation practicing, to get better individually and as a team. I think this weekend's games kind of showed that."

I have been LOL (rolling my eyes) reading comments from morons about how our team needs to get better on offense. Of course for people who don’t follow this team on a day to day basis (and are bandwagon fans) they will always get excited in these kinds of offensive numbers:

The Bruins shot 74% from the field in the second half while pulling away. For the game, they made 73% of their three-point attempts.

All that scoring was preceded by 21 assists, well above the team's average.

"Everybody's looking to pass," Darren Collison said.

Collison was one of three players with three assists each. Center Alfred Aboya had two. Freshman guard Jrue Holiday led the Bruins with five.

"I'd rather give other people looks," Holiday said. "Especially driving the middle and dishing out."

Yet to me all of that was made possible due to our defensive tenacity. I will single out some of our guys from yesterday besides the obvious heroes (AA3, DC and JH):

ML and JA scored a total of 6 points. It didn’t matter to me though. What stood out to me was the way those two guards were locking down defensively. I know Howland has designated JH as the designated defensive stopper to take over the role vacated by RW and AA. However, whenever I watch these guys its ML whose athleticism reminds me of RW the most. He is explosive on both ends. Yes, he needs to get under control on the offensive side a little bit but that will come over the course of time. What I loved yesterday was how active both ML and JA were on defensive ends. Speaking of JA, he is incredibly smooth baller. He makes playing pg look effortless (kind of like JH) and he is also showing his ability to explode out of nowhere. He didn’t connect on that dunk but I am sure there will be more opportunities in the coming weeks/months/years.

I also liked the hustle and tenacity from ND on the defensive end as well. He was active around the boards and also had some beautiful passes to open team-mates. Same with JK. JK has clearly turned it up a notch on the defensive end in last few games. Speaking of defense, I am going to speculate that JMM needs to turn it up few notches on defense. The kid needs to be patient. He is a kid. He will just have to learn that to shine in Coach Howland’s program he will need to put in all out effort on defensive end in every practice. He just needs to look at ND who has clearly carved out a role in this team based on the intensity he is bringing on defensive end that is clearly at a higher level than what we have seen from him in the past. Here was AA2 on how the intensity from practices turned into ferocity in last two games:

"After the Washington game, Coach told us we had to have the best practice we've ever had," center Alfred Aboya said. "That's what we did. After that, he said we had to keep it up every day."

And JH on what CBH wants from this team:

"We're starting to find our roles and do the things we do best and not try to do anything crazy," said Holiday, who also had five assists and six rebounds. "I think we know what (Howland) wants, and it's really up to us to try and figure it out.

"I figured out that I can't leave my man on defense. I'm playing the best (opposing) player, so if someone drives, I cannot help off of him."

We still have a long way to go this season. Yet what matters for all of us is despite all the concern trolling Coach Howland and his warriors have been subjected to this season from certain parts of the traditional media, some idiots posing as UCLA fans, he has our basketball team at the top of the conference with a record of 7-2. All this even after losing three superstars to NBA and having to integrate 5 freshmen and some upperclassmen who weren't used to getting substantial mins in last few seasons.

As I wrote above ... we still have a long way to go. I am also not naive to think that we are done with our tough moments this season. There will be more set backs in a very tough and competitive Pac-10 season.

Yet I like where we are and I am excited to see how team is going to fight through rest of the season. Judging from the image and comments above ... it's clear our Ben Ball warriors are not going to concede an inch. Hopefully when they get back on the court on Wednesday they will heed the words of the Caretaker and lock in on the next opponent by zeroing in on DEFENSE.

GO BRUINS.

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