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Enjoy the Ride

As I mentioned last night Bruins are off to a solid start.  I think we all need to keep in mind Bruins played a very good BYU team last night, which will most likely make into the field of 65. When we scheduled this team two years ago not a lot of folks probably expected BYU to be such a solid program. However, last night's game confirmed lot of the pre-season reports about BYU being a resurgent program under Dave Rose. The game was lot closer than the final score. They just ultimately lost to a better coached and more talented UCLA team.

Obviously DC and Luuuuuuuuuuuc were the rock stars:

AP Photo/Jeff Lewis

DC really had a great game. He was the focus heading into last night as everyone was looking to see how he would fill in for Jordan. Well I think he is off to a great start. The kid played for 38 minutes with the same energy and intensity beginning to end. His only blemish was probably not taking it to the hoops in first few drives when he was a little unselfish and dished it out to this team. But he was in full control rest of the game. He made some great passes finding Luc in key situations, some nice drive to the hoop, and clutch shots. And he looked calm and composed just like Jordan did last year down the stretch.  I know it's a one game, but I liked what I saw from him last night, as did Brian Dohn:

Collison achieved career- highs with 16 points and 10assists, but his most glowing statistic was his one turnover in 38 minutes.

"Luc was open every single time," Collison said. "I don't understand what they were doing. A couple of times the defense would extend, and Luc would just be open. He had a phenomenal game."
1 TO in 38 minutes in action for a sophomore kid taking over the team for real for the first time is an amazing stat. Let's hope he keeps it up.

As for Luc what else can you say? As DC said he had phenomenal game. Not only he had a career high 24 points, as Pucin wrote bulk of those points came in key stretches:
The pace was to Brigham Young's liking. Lots of long possessions, the sound of squeaky sneakers on the court moving, and then silence when another Cougar would make a three-point shot or an open layup.

Until Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would put back an offensive rebound. Or be the lead on a fastbreak and get the basket. Mbah a Moute was everywhere and he had to be. The UCLA sophomore forward scored a career-high 24 points to lead the No. 6 Bruins to an 82-69 victory over the Cougars at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday night.

About a quarter of the seats were empty even though the Bruins were coming off a national championship game appearance and there was a time in the second half when the opposition fans were dominating with "BYU, BYU" cheers. Until Mbah a Moute got the ball.

The loudest noise came with about two minutes left and the Cougars still close. Mbah a Moute blocked a jump shot by BYU guard Rashaun Broadus and flicked a perfect outlet pass to Darren Collison, who made the easy basket and put the Bruins ahead, 72-63.
Luc was everywhere.

Luc and DC were the MVPs. However, the unsung hero of the night - per Coach Howland - was none other than Mata:
Lorenzo Mata, one of UCLA's two scholarship juniors, had spent all of the preseason on the sidelines recovering from knee surgery. Mata mostly rode a stationary bike and watched while his teammates got better. Mata was finally cleared to practice Saturday and he was a surprise starter against BYU in place of sophomore Alfred Aboya.

"I was thinking about it for the last 48 hours," Howland said. "He practiced so well the last 48 hours. And we wanted to get a bigger body in the game."

Howland was concerned that 6-foot-11, 245-pound Cougars sophomore Trent Plaisted, who averaged 13.6 points and 6.9 rebounds last year, would be trouble. Mata is 6-10 and Aboya is only 6-8. "Mata played 21 minutes on essentially three practices," Howland said. "That shows you what a quick healer he is. Wait until he gets to full strength."

Plaisted finished with seven points and four rebounds, although the Cougars took advantage of UCLA's post double teams by making 10 of 15 three-point shots.

"I really believe Mata's 21 minutes were critical to us getting this win," Howland said. Mata finished with four points, four rebounds and a blocked shot.
No wonder the kid has become cult hero for the Bruin Den. BTW Lorenzo still has some ways to go in terms of his offensive moves in the low post, but you can see that there is improvement. He doesn't look as insecure and awkward when he first stepped in as freshman. And he is only going to get better.

Speaking of getting better I wouldn't worry too much about AA's off night (9 points, 3-9, 4 assists). He will come around. And he wasn't too worried and ecstatic about his teammates' big nights:
Junior guard Arron Afflalo gave credit to Mbah a Moute and Collison for saving the Bruins. "They both played great tonight," said Afflalo, who had nine points and four assists. "They both played complete floor games. Luc incorporated what he did last year and showed me some new things. Darren protected the ball and got 10 assists. That's what you want from your point guard."
Now that's exactly what you want to hear from the heart and soul of this ball club. I think AA was probably a little too hyped up with all the expectations coming into this season. However, when he gets in sync with his team-mates, it will be all right. As for Shipp he looked good to me. He did look like he was coasting a bit at some point, but I am sure Coach Howland will take care of it.

As for Coach Howland, I will say what we have already mentioned multiple times here on BN - what about those half time adjustments. It's nice. Isn't it? We all knew deep down even when BYU was raining down those treys, that Coach Howland was going to do make the necessary adjustments and get our kids to clamp down on D. Here is BBR on how the game changed in second half:
[T]he Cougars shooting cooled down in the second half as a result of the law of averages but also due to more aggressive UCLA defense.  The Bruins only allowed three shots in the final seven minutes of the game and harassed the Cougars into 22 turnovers with most of them occurring during the Bruins second-half rally.

"Their pressure late in the game didn't allow us to get the ball where we wanted on the floor." BYU Head Coach Dave Rose said. "We weren't able to run our plays like we did earlier in the game."
Yes after dark, dreary, and uninspiring football season, it's nice for once to read quotes from opposing coaches about how it was the coaching moves of a Bruin head coach, which changed up the game. And people wonder why we are so high on hoops coach and his program.

All in all not a bad start. Sure Bruins still have a long way to go. As mentioned Shipp and Afflalo need to get back in sync. We need to sustain the defensive energy for the entire 40 minutes, which I think our team will do as they get in game shape in the next few weeks. Since we played a veteran team last night, freshmen didn't get much time. But you can bet they are going to see more action in coming weeks. I don't think we are going to have to worry much about this team "growing" and "developing" under the direction of Coach Howland. They are only going to get better. I think we may stumble a bit (may be in Maui next week) but it's going to be fun to watch these warriors polish up their team game in these first few weeks. Let's sit back and enjoy the ride. Fun times.

And I can't say it enough - thank God for Ben Howland.