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That Winning Feeling ...

So the Bruins eked out a 3 point win victory over the best team from the state of Washington last night. And, yes, after seeing a few Washington, Gonzaga, and now, WSU games (including last night's nail biter), IMHO Washington State is the best (or at least the best coached basketball team) from the Pacific Northwest.

Coach Tony Bennet (just like his old man) had his scrappy Cougars ready to play last night. I have to say, in last two years, I think that's the best coached opponent I have seen the Bruins take on during Howland's four years in Westwood. The Cougars came out with a perfect scheme on defense and precision passing on offense. They had 3-4 guys running back on D every time they took a shot, stifling Bruin's transition offense in the first half. And their crisp and precise passing was leaving our vaunted Ben Howland DEFENSE just a step slower in first part of first half.

And they had DC flustered in the first half. Now, on a related note, I do think it was the ref's atrocious calls that had DC frazzled a bit in early part of the game. Now we are not alleging any kind of grand conspiracy theory against the Bruins. Far from it. Yes, there were some calls that went against the Cougs too. But what I think is undeniable is that, once again, Pac-10 refs were calling yet another terribly inconsistent game, leaving the players unsure what they could or could not do, totally disrupting the rhythm of the game. Yes, I get it. Sh!tty, poorly trained Pac-10 zebras are a fact of life we have to deal with it. But we have to remember that DC is still a mere sophomore and this is his first full year as a Bruin starter. So it took the half time intermission, when I am sure Coach Howland calmed him down, got him to focus, and got him a few extra minutes on the bench, before bringing him in the second, to get him set. And that's when he took over the game and changed the game. Credit to DC for leading the Bruin surge. Pucin is on this storyline of DC's two halves:

Collison was stymied. On consecutive first-half possessions he double-dribbled while leading a rare fastbreak and then committed a charging foul instead of pulling up for a five-foot jumper.

"That first half was Darren's poorest of the year," Howland said. "But he's a great competitor. That's Darren's best attribute, his competitiveness."
And credit, of course, to Coach Howland for getting DC in the mindset to lead that Bruin surge (kind of a politically charged word these days).

Now we need to talk a little about our offensive effort. The issues with horrific calls and great Cougar defensive scheme notwithstanding, we didn't exactly see a stellar offensive effort from our Ben Ball warriors. Coach Howland took direct responsibility for that:
Howland called his team's offense "inept" and "stagnant."

"There was no player movement," he said. "That's my responsibility and we will get better. If we don't, we will get beat."

It got better, just enough. Just in time.
Yes, a coach taking responsibility without passing the buck, scapegoating assistants. Shocking I know. Speaking of player movement, I thought something has been nagging me a little about Josh and AA.

Now I love these two kids. Just like rest of the Bruins Nation, I think they have incredible talent and no doubt they will be two of my favorite Bruins before they leave Westwood. But, boys (I'm talking to you AA and Josh) come on now:

Let the game come to you fellas. No need to force your shots and get caught up in the silly, boring NBA 1-on-1 nonsense. Your Coach has a nice scheme. Just play within it. Move around (as your Coach says), pass the ball around, and wait for the open shot (kind of like your teammate Roll, who waits for those open, set 3-point shots). You will get your points and stats. No worries. Just be focused and play within the team scheme and let the game come to you.

Speaking of the letting the game come to him, that is what exactly Luc did in the second half. Luc, instead of worrying too much about being a swingman and a pretty jump shooter, went back to his bread and butter in the second half, playing that trademark Luuuuuuuuuuuuc ferocious-suffocating- breathtaking (I love D) defense. He was the spark plug on defensive. From Jill Painter in the Daily News:
Luc Mbah a Moute made several big defensive plays down the stretch to keep UCLA (12-0, 1-0 Pac-10) undefeated. Mbah a Moute blocked Low's shot and Afflalo made a fastbreak 3-pointer from the left wing to pull UCLA within two at 39-37.
And we fought off the Cougars from there on out. BBR has more in its game report.

Again, it was a scary game (and, just in case you forgot, we also had a scary game against these same guys last year, barely winning 63-61 when they missed a potential game tying shot at the buzzer). But, honestly, just like in the back of mind during the football game when I had this sinking feeling of oh-shit-here-we-go-again, last night I was more in the mode of Howland-we-have-our-defense-we-will-pull-this-out.

It's the kind of feeling I haven't experience since the days of rooting for Magic and good ole Joe Montana.

Its called having that winning feeling as oppose to you know what.

Now on to Washington, which has some young incredible talents. We will have more on them later. Obviousl,y they had a heartbreaking loss against some no-name, insignificant, mediocre, garbage D-1 program (with some dumb asses) last night. It happens. They are reeling a bit, but they will be ready.

And given the fact that they were the only team to sweep us last year, our boys are going to be fired up. So will all of us here in the Nation.

Cannot wait for Sunday. Onward.