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Striving for Perfection

Let’s recap a perfect night during which the Bruins took control of the top spot of toughest basketball conference in America. Clearly the story of the night was AA. He led all scorers with 25 huge points, most of them came within the flow of UCLA’s offense. However, his impact on D was just as huge, as he savaged Cal’s Ubaka by holding him down to zippo. Here is Dohn’s report on AA’s DOMINATING night:

In the final 25 minutes, Afflalo scored 25points to boost a sagging offense, and added another sublime defensive effort in shutting out Cal's Ayinde Ubaka as the third-ranked Bruins rolled to a 62-46 victory Thursday in front of 11,877 at soldout Haas Pavilion.

Afflalo's performance lifted the Bruins (18-1, 7-1 Pac-10) to their fourth straight win since losing at Oregon, which lost to Washington 89-77 on Thursday, putting UCLA in sole possession of first place in the Pac-10 standings.

"Any time a guy can shoot those numbers, and stop their best player on the other team, that shows a lot," Bruins point guard Darren Collison said. "In order to be a great player you need to be a good defender, and you need to be a good offensive player.He showed that against Ubaka, and put up 25 points."

In many ways it was a typical Afflalo performance - equally strong on offense and defense - but the level to which he performed was even higher than usual. He made 7 of 13 shots from the field and had three assists in 36 minutes. And Afflalo also throttled Cal point guard Ayinde Ubaka, who was averaging 14.7 points per game, including 18.8 points in his last five.

Ubaka, Cal's second-leading scorer, went 0 for 8 from the field, and had just two assists to go with two turnovers in 35minutes in being held scoreless for the first time since Dec. 12, 2005, against Stanford.

"I think (Ubaka) is their floor leader and (second-) leading scorer and he did a lot for them," UCLA wing Josh Shipp said. "But Arron took him out of the game. I think he was in his head."
AA is getting in lot of people’s head these days. Remember what did to the Standard last Saturday? More on AA’s heroics from the LAT game report. To be fair apparently Ubaka was suffering from an intestinal virus before the game. Hopefully the kid feels better and is pumped for his next game on Saturday.

Back to our Bruins.

It was dominating performance defensively. Bruins held the Bears to 36.7 percent shooting and only 4 for 15 from the 3 point line. Keep in mind this was a Bear team, which was leading the Pac-10 in three-point field goals made with 9.57 per game and were shooting 36.2% from three-point distance before last night. Bears couldn’t get nothing inside and by second half they were shooting for tired, hapless jump shots.

Bruins also thoroughly out rebounded a Cal team, which out rebounded its opponents in the three games leading up to last night. The combination of Luc, Mata, and Aboya accounted for 27 of Bruins 36 rebounds, including 10 offensive rebounds.

Luc despite playing with an injured knee grabbed 11 rebounds. He was not as effective on offense (6 points), however he more than made up for it with his defensive tenacity and ferocious rebounding.

AA2 had another monster game to follow up his huge performance against Arizona. Let’s hope he is finally getting into a grove. He is focusing on his strong point now which is to use his physical presence to make a dominating impact around the boards and not force anything on offense. The kid is only going to get better. And let’s hope he sticks with it because we are going to need this kind of production out of him specially this Sunday when we take on the Lopez monsters at Maples.

Mata played only 15 minutes but still produced 6 points, 8 boards. That is what we call optimum production. I also loved it how he was one of the first guys to grab a hold of Luc and make him walk away, when Luc got frustrated by the Taylor Harrison’s activities around the low post. It was just awesome to watch how he stepped in to protect his team-mate.

Roll, Westbrook, and Keefe all made their presence felt in the game. Roll came up with clutch shots in the fist half when the Bruins fell behind early. He once again established a stable presence on the defensive side when he came in for Shipp. Westbrook was Westbrook. He stayed on attack and clearly injected more defensive energy into his team-mates when he came off the bench. As for Keefe he clearly needs more work on the offensive side (well more time that is so he can have more confidence in his shots). But once again he was active. He pulled down 2 boards and had a great play during one defensive sequence when he was battling for a lose ball. He made a heady play in which he punched it towards AA’s direction which enabled AA to start an offensive break.

Now Josh was second in scoring with 12 points. And he made two spectacular show time passes during Bruin fast breaks. But I still think the kid can play smarter. Even when the Bruins took total control of the game in second half, Josh made couple boneheaded plays forcing the issues on transition offense, which led to turnovers. I just don’t think there is no need for that. Once again I hope Josh takes a cue from AA who had this to say about his big night (from Dohn’s piece):
"Last year I came up here and I may have forced the issue a little bit," Afflalo said.

"This time I really wanted to let the game come to me a little more, and it wasn't really coming to me early. For me, it only takes one shot, a free throw, and I feel like I'm on fire."
That’s really it boys. Just let the game come to you. You are the best team in Pac-10. Just focus on defense and stay within in the scheme in your offense. You will have lot more nights like last night.

Anyways Bruins now need to move. Because of Washington’s win Bruins are now all alone in first place. They now have another big game this Sunday at Stanford. I really don’t think there is any pressure on the Bruins to win this game. Stanford is playing very good basketball and just like all other Bruin opponents they are going to be fired up.

Right now though it’s fun to watch our boys striving for perfection. All Bruins need to do is stay calm, cool, composed, and focused on defense. On the offensive side if they let the game come to them, they will have another great night on Sunday to finish of this tough road trip. It sounds so easy but we all know how difficult it is to pull it off in every single game. Luckily for us we have a wonderful head coach who is making it happen game after game. And they are still working on improving their individual and team-mates. Now that’s kind of "growing," "developing," and "maturing process" we love enjoying and celebrating here in Bruins Nation.