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We are just getting started ...

Started my morning scan of the two LA papers with Daily News. And there it is - the two sophomore superstars setting the tone and putting in perspective what this (our 28th Pacific conference title) really means in the grand scheme of things for the greatest college basketball program in the world.  From Arron recounting why he choose to wear those magical four letters in blue and gold:

"Outside of the fact that I wanted to stay close to home and close to family (when deciding on UCLA), it was the fact that I could help change history a little bit," Afflalo said. "That's what you play for. It's much bigger than just a single game. It's putting a great program in its rightful place, and I'm glad to be a small part of that."

And from his partner in crime, the best point guard in America: Jordan Farmar:

"This is why we came here, to turn the program around and get it back on top and this is a step in the right direction," Farmar said. "We know people around UCLA aren't satisfied with (a Pac-10 title). We're not going to get a banner in the gym, or anything special for this one. The only thing is maybe before we come out, with our player intros, they'll say 28-time Pac-10 champions.

"We have other goals and higher expectations for ourselves."

These two have set the foundation for a program that is back where it belongs in the Pac-10 and now will continue to move on up towards the top of the basketball world:


AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Back to the game from yesterday afternoon. It was the most dominating performance of the season. Arron (16pts) and Jordan (13 pts) led the way. But we got key performances from everyone else. Here is the kind of balanced performance the team put on at Maples:

The Bruins had four players -- Afflalo (16 points), Farmar (13), center Ryan Hollins (13) and forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (12) -- finish in double figures and shot 50% from the field while holding Stanford to 43.9%. Hernandez finished with nine points, Haryasz with eight.

UCLA was dominant in all the major categories; it outrebounded the Cardinal, 33-24, led by Mbah a Moute's game-high nine, and even had fewer turnovers, seven to Stanford's 15.

It was a satisfying finish to the conference season, satisfying enough to bring a smile to even Bozeman's face.

Of course the kid you really had to feel good for was Cedric Bozeman. Lavin almost destroyed his career at UCLA - over hyping him before his arrival in Westwood putting him in impossible situation. Howland saved this kid's career in Westwood putting him in a place now where he can leave UCLA in peace and with a legacy he is going to feel good about for rest of his life. Ced played a huge role in getting it all rolling - which will get UCLA back to where it belongs. And Ced is feeling good:

"Things have come quite a long way," Bozeman said. "It seems like yesterday you were down at the bottom, and now to be at the top, there's nothing more gratifying. I'm proud of the guys for sticking through adversity and coming out on top. I've had a chance to see things from both sides of the fence ... so you appreciate it that much more."

And we appreciate you Ced. Here in BruinsNation we have stuck with Ced and his coach - an obvious leading candidate for the National Coach of the Year honor - Coach Ben Howland:


AP Photo: Paul Sakuma

Yes, when Howland arrived here lot of his detractors - mostly left over Lavin supporters, Dorrell supporters, clueless wankers in LA media (someone should look up the Adande/Plascke articles the week Howland arrived in Westwood in 03), subtly egged on by Lavin himself - have been on his case saying his style of basketball wouldn't fly in LA.  Well they are coming around. Less than 24hours Bruins clinching their first Pac-10 title, here is Diane Pucin of LA Times singing the praises of Howland brand of basketball

:

Lavin recruited Bozeman to UCLA and called the Mater Dei star "another Magic Johnson," and that was never fair. Howland calls Bozeman "a kid who has become a quiet leader and who deserves this as much as anyone." Bozeman proved to be less flashy than Lavin had predicted and more hard-working and fundamentally sound than Howland could have hoped.

That's also what the Bruins are now: hard-working, fundamentally sound, not flashy.

It used to be thought that Los Angeles' foremost college team needed to be about bright lights and big dunking. There's something to appreciate, though, about a team that will make five, six, seven shots a game right as the shot clock expires because there is no panic and there is always time for one more pass. There's something to admire about a team that understands about pushing for inside rebounding position and never letting up on defense.

Howland will never coach the "Showtime" Bruins. He will, instead, coach the championship Bruins.

Howland brand of basketball is of course championship basketball. Again, a note to all the haters out there:Howland brought home this title without his third leading scorer (Shipp), his best inside player (Mata), and with a roster dominated by sophomores and freshmen, that was devastated by injuries the whole season. And we are just getting started. We just won a regular season Pac-10 title in a season we were predicted to finish no better than 3rd.  Now rest will follow. Pac-10 tourney, deep runs in the Big-Dance, Banner no. 12 - they are going to come.  Right now just settle in and enjoy this ride. We are just getting started towards something very special. GO BRUINS.