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More Hoop Thoughts

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Before I put Saturday’s meaningless loss in the backburner wanted to share couple of notes from the weekend. First, lets revisit Mata’s injury. Here is Pucin in the LAT:

UCLA center Lorenzo Mata awoke Saturday and didn't feel good. His left hip, fine the night before, ached in the morning, Mata said.

Through warmups and during the first half of the Bruins' 70-65 loss to West Virginia, the hip kept feeling worse. At halftime Mata told UCLA Coach Ben Howland about the pain. Alfred Aboya started the second half in Mata's place, and even when Mata told Howland he felt he could play, the coach kept him on the bench.

"I'd rather err on the side of caution," Howland said.

Mata had limped off the court during Wednesday's win over USC. "I just bumped knees with somebody," he said. "This is different."

Indeed, on Friday, Howland said Mata had "a tremendous" practice session.

Howland said Mata approached him at halftime. "He told me he had developed a hip flexor," Howland said. "He said he could play in the middle of the second half."
However, Howland wasn’t interested. Just like he did with DC, he decided to err on the side of caution with Mata, and kept him out in the second half. AA2 got most of Mata’s minutes, which in turn impact Luc’s time, who ended up playing for 38 minutes.

Second, I really couldn’t help but note this from Dohn:
West Virginia has a notoriously volatile crowd, led by the student section. During a mid- week game against rival Pittsburgh, the crowd taunted Panthers center Aaron Gray, chanting a term that is derogatory toward gay men.

Eighty minutes before Saturday's tipoff, Mountaineers coach John Beilein addressed the students. He told them the school has made positive strides in changing its reputation the past few years and asked them to represent the school in a positive fashion.

When the Bruins took the court for layups prior to tipoff, there was a quick chant of "U-S-A, U-S-A," an obvious reference to a UCLA team with four foreigners. Alfred Aboya and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are from Cameroon, Ryan Wright is from Canada and Nikola Dragovic hails from Serbia.
On top of this T already mentioned about the ridiculousness of their "over-rated" chant before they rushed the court. And it was amazing to see the crowd actually boo the vicious, hard, and obviously intentional take down of AA. Whatever.

I guess there is no need for retort here considering those Mountaineers’ students and fans have to live in West Virginia. It’s not fun living in a state that is a bigger laughing stock (in East Coast) than New Jersey. Anyways.

Now as for the game. I am over it. As I mentioned earlier in the weekend in the greater scheme of things this game is not going to matter much. All I care about right now is Bruins putting themselves in position to get a number 1 or number 2 seed, keeping them out West. That’s all that matters to me. I couldn’t care less what bunch of national "pundits" from CBS or ESPN think about our Bruins. Only think I care about is the Bruins getting the job done in next 6 games so they can finish the regular season at least with a tie of Pac-10 regular season title and then run the table in Pac-10 tournament at Staples.

I do believe Bruins are going to face a challenge from here on out. Every team they are going to play are going to come out and give their best effort to either save their season or boost their tourney resume, or win the title. It is going to be intense. And Bruins are not going to get away with the kind of intensity they showed in West Virginia during the first half on Saturday. That is probably the single aspect I was most disappointed with on Saturday. I was really bummed out see a Ben Howland coached team so out-hustled by another team for an entire half this past weekend. I really hope we don’t see that again. I still cannot figure out why that happened. I wonder if it has to do with total lack of senior leadership, which we had in Bozeman and in Hollins during the stretch run last season. I am hoping we will not see a half like that (also eerily similar to second half of Stanford game) for rest of this season.

Also, I do think Coach Howland’s decision not to give younger players like Westbrook, Keefe, and even Wright finally came back to bite us this past weekend. I think all of those guys can make meaningful contributions to our team this year. However, they just didn’t get the necessary minutes a young player needs to get his confidence going earlier in the season when teams like UCLA are taking on … well teams like UCR and Oakland. Anyways. I am not going to question Coach Howland too much on his decisions wrt allocation of mins. His record speaks for himself. Given the results he gets out of his teams, I think it is more than reasonable for me to have complete faith in his judgment.

Anyways, hope DC and Mata will heal up over next 48 hours and be ready for this week’s action. Bruins will need to come out focused and get going against an ASU team, which has given them all they could handle during their last three meetings. At this point every game is going to be dogfight (just like it was last season). Bruins simply do not have the talent like a North Carolina or a Florida team, that can waltz into an arena and turn it off or on as they wish (then again Florida hasn’t really played anyone except for couple of tough games here and there this season). They will have to win their games on sheer intensity, effort, and all out defense.

Hope they can continue to play with the same passion and intensity they showed during the second half on Saturday, and stay steady on that level for rest of this season.

GO BRUINS.