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A Big Win

8 games into the season we still have a lot of issues to work on. I won't belabor the point on out FT shooting. It is going to cost us down the line. It will cost us in a conference, arguably positioned to have the best set of teams in almost a decade. Our offense is still work in progress. And for the second game in row Luc appeared human.

Despite all of those concerns though we need to give credit to Texas A&M, which is the most physical team Bruins have taken on the whole season, and I am not sure if they are going to face a physically (and mentally)  rougher and tougher opponent like the Aggies rest of this regular season. We call our boys "Warriors" all the time. But the Aggies showed they can hold their own and their stats coming into the game, which included leading the nation in defensive FG% was no fluke. They gave everything they had, and the Bruins survived, held on, most impressively didn't blink during crunch time, and pulled out the huge win.

BBR has the recap:

Josh Shipp scored a team-high 18 points and Darren Collison added 15 to pace the UCLA attack.  Arron Afflalo scored 13 points but was limited to just 28 minutes due to early foul trouble.  However, Afflalo gave his team a boost by scoring eight of his points over the final nine minutes of the contest.

In a battle between two physical and defensive-minded teams, although each managed to shoot over 49% from the field there were rarely any easy baskets or fast-breaks to be found with each team limiting the other to only 51 shots in the game.

"The intensity was going to remain high as long as the score was tight," Afflalo said. "Neither team got a chance to pull away."
In some way the game reminded of the bruising street fight we had in our second round game against Alabama in last year's Madness. Both teams kept battling (inside) and didn't give up. We mentioned how the Aggies didn't relent even after falling by large margin (relatively speaking) and put themselves in position to win in last few mins of the game. But don't forget the Bruins who after relinquishing the lead in late first half (well the game became tied at 27-27), fired right back and finished the half off with Collison's spectacular shots. Bruins didn't blink in the first half, neither did they blink in second, when DC and AA took over. From Dohn:
Josh Shipp led UCLA with 18 points, but Collison (15points) and Afflalo (13points) were the central figures in the final minutes.

Afflalo's spin move in the lane gave the Bruins a 61-56 lead with 3:28 to play. He also played strong defense on Law, who worked hard just to get the ball in the final minutes.

Collison gave the Bruins a 63-56 lead with a jump-stop and lean basket with 1:33 to play but committed a crucial turnover when he stepped on the side line with 36.6 seconds left and the Bruins ahead by three.

The Aggies scrambled but could not get the ball to Law in scoring position and settled for Jones' trey attempt.

Collison then made two free throws to give UCLA a 65-60 lead. "Down the stretch, the last three or four minutes, (Afflalo) really fought hard," Howland said. "Law, as I remember, didn't make a lot of plays in the last three or four minutes of the game."
AA and DC were being themselves down the stretch. But I also cannot say enough of Shipp's game. Shipp had a complete game.

AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

In addition to leading the team in scoring, he had 5 boards, 4 steals, and 2 block shots. A very encouraging game from Josh with conference game looming ahead.

Again despite the concerns listed up top, Bruins pulled out last night's win (IMHO the biggest one of 2006-07 to date) relying on their trademark. Coach Howland in the LA Times:
In the last five minutes, when the game was close and the fans were loud, the Aggies were trying to run their offense through junior Dominique Kirk. Except they couldn't. Collison would never let Kirk turn the corner to get a play started and Arron Afflalo attached himself tightly to Law, who finished with 21 points.

"It's not fun to have Darren in your grill," Howland said.
No kidding. It's certainly not fun for the opposing teams to go up against these guys. I love seeing this type of quotes from opposing coaches after every UCLA basketball games:
Texas A&M Coach Billy Gillispie said he was surprised at how strong UCLA's inside players were.

"They were a little tougher in the paint as far as physical play," Gillispie said. "A little tougher than I'd seen on tape."
So all in all despite a low scoring, intense, too close for comfort, not a bad Saturday for our Ben Ball warriors. Remember IIRC we get Dragovic after next two games. And hopefully he will get in game shape by the Washington home stand. We are way ahead of where we were at this time last year. Again because of our FT shooting, I think will probably not be able to hold on to number 1 ranking, and may lose 3-4 games in our conference. But I feel pretty good about where we are. Our boys are in all right shape, at number 1, and our coaches will be working on them to get better in the coming weeks.

No wonder the Coach, our alums., students, and fans, the Bruins Nation, left Orange County with a huge smile on our faces:

AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian

Good luck to all of our students who are taking their finals this coming week. I am sure all of you are going to come through in crunch time just like AA, DC, Shipp, and rest of our Ben Ball Warriors.