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Off to A Good Start

Once again, the Bruins pulled out a ho-hum, methodical win by a comfortable margin over a pretty good mid-major team in a game that was close at the outset, and once again the beat writers are whining for no reason. In a night when many of the top-ranked teams were locked in close battles for most of their games, before putting the game out of reach in second half, the Bruins followed the pattern by starting the game in a sluggish manner, however, eventually finding their defensive intensity, and wore down yet another team.

The LA Times apparently gave it's in-house novelist Diane Pucin a break and subbed in some dude named Peter Yoon, who just like his colleague wrote up an overly dramatic game report, and frankly sounding clueless. Here is Yoon and, in his words, the Bruins' "slow" and "almost painful" night:

Sam Houston State, a mid-major team from Huntsville, Texas, caused mega-major problems for the nation's top-ranked team with a deliberate, slow-down offense and an airtight defense.

The Bearkats (6-5) trailed by only five, 48-43, with just under 11 minutes to play and seemed intent on giving UCLA (10-0) all it could handle and perhaps catch the Bruins looking ahead to their Saturday showdown with Michigan.

But UCLA found some momentum as Josh Shipp scored six consecutive points to spark a 14-2 run that finally gave UCLA control in a game that, on paper, figured to be a cakewalk.

"We knew they'd be a hard team, the style of ball," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "It's hard to play against. It's a mental challenge to have to play defense for 25 and 30 seconds at a time. It was a game I was obviously worried about."

Sam Houston State routinely let the shot clock wind down into single digits, but was ultimately done in by poor shooting. The Bearkats made only two field goals in an eight-minute stretch of the second half as UCLA extended its lead to 68-47 and allowed the restless Bruins faithful an opportunity to head for the exits knowing the game was finally in hand.
Yoon of course doesn't bother to mention that perhaps it was the Bruins stifling defense which picked after first 5 minutes of the game, which wore down the Bearkats, causing them to take hurried, tired shots leading to all those bricks. Same nonsense from Jill Painter's game report in the Daily News:
The Bearkats played their deliberate offense with lots of passes, backdoor cuts and shot-clock rundowns. They found some open 3-point shots, but couldn't knock them down, making just 2 for 11 in the first half. Sam Houston State was 0for 5 from the 3-point line in the second half.
Same cr*p in the OC Register game report which again implies it was Bearkats bad shooting (not the stifling Ben Ball defense) that led to eventual Bruin win:
Had Sam Houston State been able to knock down a three-pointer or make a decent number of free throws, the Bruins might have had something to worry about.

The Bearkats had come in hitting 33.8 percent of their three-pointers but made only 2of 16 (12.5 percent). One of those misses, by Reggie Rawlins, wedged between the rim and the backboard. They also could make only 7 of 18 (38.9 percent) free throws.
Again no mention of why the Bearkats may have been missing all those shorts. No mention of how a methodical Bruin defense put away the Bearkats leading to a comfortable win over well coached and well prepared team playing a little inspired basketball.

Of course if reporters like Yoon actually did the slightest research before the game he'd known that none of the Bruins and most of here on Bruins Nation didn't expect the game to be a "cakewalk." Only fans and perhaps so called reporters who have no freaking clue about our team, the style we play ball, and the actual opponent we were playing, expected this game to easy just because we were taking on some small school from Texas.

Thankfully we don't have to depend on clueless reporters in the traditional media to break down and report on game actions. Here is BBR on what actually happened at Pauley:
The game was competitive from the start.  The Bearkats (6-5) came out ready to play the No.1 team in the land and stormed out to an early lead by executing their Princeton Offense to perfection, while the Bruin defense lacked intensity and players were slow in defensive switching assignments.

But after a couple of time-outs, the Bruin defense stiffened and they took their first lead with 8:22 remaining in the first-half at 15-14 on a lay-up by Josh Shipp.

Reserve center Alfred Aboya scored only four points in the game but he had two resounding blocks on outside jumpers by Bearkat's center Aaron Wade which seemed to spark the Bruin defense. Now, instead of allowing the Bearkats to take them off the dribble or to freely cut into the paint, the Bruins started doing a better job of denying penetration, pressuring the passer, and bumping Bearkat cutters out of the lane.

"You're going to have games like this. We've got to come out with better intensity," UCLA point-guard Darren Collison said. "We're playing good teams coming up, so we have to pick up the intensity."

By the middle of the second-half, the Sam Houston players started to look weary and began launching numerous three-point shots rather than challenge the Bruins' physical defense.  Unfortunately for the Bearkats they shot a woeful 2-13 (15.3%) from beyond the arc in the game.

"This game was good for us to test our mental toughness on defense for long stretches of time." UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. "Other people are going to use that tactic against us."
Yes, we realize the Bruins have to improve and come out with better intensity. We definitely have some reasons to be a little cranky. It sounds like a broken record.  The players know they will have to come out focused and more intense starting this Saturday, when a new season starts. Yet the bottom line is Bruins are still putting away their opponents, wearing them down, relying on the fundamentals of Ben Ball defense. Now, if they can ride the momentum of good FT shooting from last night, work on their rebounding margin, and come out with the same intensity they came out during Maui tourney, we are going to be fine rest of the season.

Can't wait to see how the team comes out this Saturday against Michigan, which is coming in with a good record but built on a fairly soft schedule. More on those Wolverines later this week. Right now though we don't really have a lot of reason to be whiny like the clueless beat reporters writing for a Southern California newspaper. I am pretty happy with how this season has started. Bruins are 10-0 for the first time since 1993-94 despite taking on teams like Kentucky, Georgia Tech, and Texas A&M.  Anyways you look at it Ben Ball is off to a good start in. We just hope they can kick it up another notch starting this Saturday. I feel optimistic that they will under the leadership of Coach Howland.