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Number 1 Ben Ball = Just Fine

Not sure where to start about the game from last night. But good ole Diane actually has the best write up (hey, maybe those X-mas emails from all of us helped after all) today flagging some of the key moments from yesterday's Ben Ball wipe out:

The fun started when forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute stole a Washington pass on the Huskies' first offensive play and re-warded himself for the theft with a swooping one-handed dunk so quick that his teammate Arron Afflalo blinked and missed it.

And it was fun when center Lorenzo Mata, a 6-foot-9 junior who is not noted for his ball-handling skills, used quick hands to take the ball away from Washington, weave and dribble his way up court and then make a perfect bounce pass to Afflalo, who finished the Mata-led fastbreak.

Fun, fun, fun. When Michael Roll scored consecutively a layup and two three-pointers. When freshman James Keefe had the confidence to make a 12-footer as Washington tried a zone to subdue UCLA's exuberance.

And no one had more fun than UCLA's guards. Afflalo, the junior who criticizes himself more harshly than the most nitpicking fan, tied a career high with 27 points. He had eight assists and five rebounds plus two steals and no turnovers. Sophomore point guard Darren Collison had 15 points, a career-high 12 assists and two turnovers in 33 minutes.
Now, a few thoughts here.

Luc's dunk was the most emphatic one I have seen in quite a long time at Pauley. That was amazing. His posterizing of Brockman (I believe it was Brockman) reminded me of Ed's very first Tomahawk when destroyed some Stanford fool in his first game at Pauley (those of you who were at that game in 1992 will have no problem remembering that). That's what I called sending a message, which not only reverberated through rest of last night, but it will be on the back of Brockman and rest of his Husky (very talented) teammates minds for rest of the season.

I loved that shot from Keefe. I think we will see a lot of that in the coming years (if not later this year). Sure, he followed that shot with a turnover and then a foul on a 3 point play (the Huskies failed to convert on the foul shot). But I wouldn't worry. Keefe is going to develop as a great basketall player. And the fact Coach Howland is putting him in crucial games shows how much confidence he has in this freshman. And, speaking of developing ...

Let's talk about Roll. What this kid has been showing this season is only the beginning. He fire-started the Bruins demolition of Yellow Jackets in Hawaii. And then on Thursday night it was back-to-back plays from Roll [a strip/steal on the defensive end followed by a clutch trey set shot from DC's dish (see pic from UDub game thread)] keyed the Bruins' win over Cougars (which I said on Friday may be the best team from the Pacific Northwest).

As for Mata, and that little play, here is Coach Howland (from Pucin's writeup):
"What a great fundamental play," Howland said. "That was sweet. That was a 'No, no, no' ... great play."

Said Afflalo: "I was asking for it back early, but Lorenzo was handling it OK so I kept running and Lorenzo remained calm. But we don't anticipate that happening anymore."

Afflalo was smiling. So did Mata later. "I haven't done that since high school," Mata said. "But I knew I could do it."
Well, we all believe in this kid. Coach Howland doesn't go ga ga over this kid in what seems like every post game press conference just to make Lo feel better. He knows (as well as basketball savvy Bruins Nation) what this kid means to Howland's program. Here is yet another example:

Karen Tapia-Andersen / LAT

Guys, I don't think we have to worry about how this Mata kid will fit in next year when Love arrives. I don't think Mata is worried. Neither is Coach Howland or Love. Mata has skills that fits perfectly in Howland's defense-first scheme. And, when Love gets here, Coach Howland will find a way to integrate everyone into his team, emphasizing team first. And judging from Love's public comments we have heard to date, this is not going to be an issue (it's not like Howland is bringing in some student-in-name-only-thug from the AAU circuit).

Oh, so AA had a great game, huh. From the DN:
The last thing Arron Afflalo wanted to do was leave Nell & John Wooden Court. He had just crumpled to the court while holding his nose, which had just been clipped by the elbow of Washington forward Quincy Pondexter.

When Ben Howland came out to get him, he tried to wave him off to no avail.

Anyone could understand why Afflalo - whose eyes were stinging with tears - wanted to stay. He was in the midst of his finest game, in which he did what he pleased against Washington.

Afflalo tied a career-high with 27 points along with eight assists, no turnovers, two steals and five rebounds as top-ranked UCLA crushed No. 14 Washington 96-74 Sunday in front of a Pauley Pavilion crowd of 12,042, the largest of the season.

Afflalo made 11 of 15 shots and eventually made his way back onto the floor, much to the crowd's delight.

"Stats-wise, it's probably my best game, but I want to have an even better game in a more meaningful game," Afflalo said. "I'd love to do this in the (NCAA) Tournament."
Just the same ole, same ole, classic grace and humility from the ultimate Ben Ball Warrior, the unquestionable leader, heart and soul of the best basketball team in America.

AP Photo/ Mark Avery

Speaking of being a warrior, Shipp contributed despite being slowed down a little by leg cramps. He should be fine.

Lastly, you can't have a roundup of UCLA basketball without taking note of at least one asinine article in the greater Southern California. This time it comes from Adande of LA Times (this is the same guy who wrote a lukewarm article when Howland arrived in Westwood). JD is all worked up and excited about the flashy excitement surrounding UCLA hoops. He had this insightful observation after yesterday's game:
Now some might wonder just how much offense Howland coached in the past, especially after the Bruins reached the NCAA championship game last year with back-to-back scores in the 50s. That also led some basketball folks I know to muse that Howland could win games with this style, but could he win over recruits?
Apparently, he has no clue about what kind of team Howland coached at University of Northern Arizona. If you are reading this JD (look it up), we are not going to describe it for you.  But, for now, please do us a favor and jump off our bandwagon.

Anyways, he (and rest of the traditional media) will jump as soon as we stumble first time this season. And it could happen this week as the Bruins are off to their first Pac-10 road trip this season.

Once again, it will have to start with that inside-the-jersey Howland defense. If we bring it right from the tip off, the Bruins are going to be just fine.

Happy New Year again. We will have a Rose Bowl thread later today (hint we are going to root against the team in the color of Commie Red).