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Turning the corner ...

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Huge win last night at Pauley. Make no mistake about it. Last night's 71- 54 win over a 4-4 Stanford was big for a number of reasons. It was one of the most dominating Pac-10 performance of an injured Bruin basketball time over an opponent, who simply owned us through the Lavin years. Last night's win despite so many injuries (which I will get to in a bit) was a clear message for rest of the Pac-10 that their heady days of gravy train ride from the Lavin days are officially over:

The Bruins, growing more resilient with every new disheartening MRI result plopped onto Ben Howland's desk, took apart Stanford 71-54 in one of their most dominant Pac-10 performances in years.

The win was the eighth consecutive for No. 11 UCLA (11-1, 1-0) and gives the Bruins their best start since their 1994-95 NCAA Championship team. That team started 12-1, a record UCLA can match with a win Saturday against Cal.

"This was a great win for this team," Howland said.

Stanford, picked to finish second in the Pac-10 by conference coaches, had beaten UCLA six straight times and eight of the last 10. The Cardinal (4-5, 0-1) had not lost to the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion since 1996-97.
And the key to last nights big win was once again was Howland's trademark relentless defense, which he used to turn Pittsburgh into an overnight national sensation. DN report has more on that BRUIN DEFENSE:
What the Bruins lacked in personnel against Stanford they made up for with a ballhawking defense that harassed the Cardinal into 29.2 percent shooting (14 of 48) and 13 turnovers, with many of the misses and turnovers converted into points on the other end.

Stanford missed its 12 first shots from the field, resulting in an 18-1 UCLA lead. The Cardinal never got closer than 13 points the rest of the half and trailed by as many as 24 points in the second half.

The key was a series of traps and double-teams that continually confused a typically disciplined Stanford offense. The defense was spearheaded by Farmar and Afflalo.

"Their defensive leadership was critical," Howland said.
Now I want to go back to the Michigan game for a second. After the game at Ann Arbor, some of the comments I was reading in other Michigan blogs and message boards seemed to indicate that those guys were thinking Wolverines lost the game because of their inabilities to adjust Bruin's double teaming at the low post.  Could be.  But then again ... it may also have to do with how effective our athletes are double teaming down low and swarming all over the court. Matt Haryasz is one of the best bigs out West and he is no Courtney Simms.  And the way we stifled their offense by effective double teaming down low was extremely encouraging.  Let's hope we can keep this up as we are going to face some more talented athletes (i.e. Leon Powe on Saturday) as Pac-10 gets into full swing.

Now on to the bummer note from last night, which is Ced's injury. The kid has a torn cartilage in his left shoulder. This really sucks ... more for Ced than for the Bruin team in general. I have written year before - this was the one kid I was specially rooting hard for given what he has had to go through since he has been at UCLA. But perhaps it will all work out. I am keeping my fingers crossed that he will be able to come back in few weeks and help us right in time for the Big Dance. Meantime, according to the LA Times Jordan reinjured his ankle, which he sprained earlier in the season. Seems like he will be back, besides DC has been doing an incredible job running the point coming off the bench.  Speaking of incredible, again we really have to put the job Howland is doing in perspective having the Bruins at 11-1, at no. 11, and our best start since that magical 1994-95 season, given the incredible list of injuries this season:
The big hurt

Add Cedric Bozeman to the long UCLA injury report this season. The senior guard injured his left shoulder and could be out for the rest of the season.
Notable UCLA injuries this season:
Cedric Bozeman, guard    shoulder
Jordan Farmar, guard    groin, ankle
Arron Afflalo, guard    quadriceps
Michael Fey, center    groin, ankle
Ryan Hollins, center    groin
Lorenzo Mata, center    concussion
Alfred Aboya, forward    knees (surgery)
Josh Shipp, forward    hip (surgery)
Again this is really amazing. And, we still have to temper our enthusiasm for rest of the season given the injury of Jordan. But there are genuine reasons to be beyond excited this program. Howland has clearly established a rock solid foundation for this program, which is already proving that it can weather injury after injury and still keep on winning against good teams. This is unheard of in UCLA's recent history in either major revenue history (for example check the excuses coming from football program for its pathetic defense). Anyways, I am fired up about rest of the season. This is going to be fun. If we can pull out a tough win this Saturday, we are going to be sitting pretty at 12-1 going into a tough Zona trip. Make no mistake about it - it is still going to be awfully difficult to take on and beat teams in Tucson, Seattle, Palo Alto, Berkeley, and Eugene, but we know our boys are going to be coming out firing - playing that fierce brand of NO FEAR DEFENSE, which gives this team a fighting chance to bring home the Pac-10 title for the first time since 1997. And now that is what called the experiencing the true feeling of the turning the corner of a program that was demolished and destroyed under the previous coaching reign. Exciting times for a UCLA basketball fan. Enjoy it ... we are just getting started. GO BRUINS.