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Riding the Momentum ...

It is fun to read the papers after a win like last night. Sure it seems like every game UCLA has played during this Pac-10 season has been a "big" game. But it was pretty clear to everyone that last night’s win was significant because it gave the Bruins lot of momentum and set them up for making a possible run to finish up the regular season. From Dohn:

[M]ost important for the Bruins, who avenged last month's two-point loss at Oregon, the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Ducks is now a wash. UCLA again appears to be the team to beat in the race for the conference title, and a possible No. 1 seed in the West in the NCAAs.

"This game means a lot," UCLA power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "This will boost our confidence level."

Afflalo paced the offense, but he had plenty of help as the Bruins hit open jumpers in the first half, then attacked the smaller Ducks on the inside after the break.

UCLA shot 57.1 percent (28 of 49) from the field and had four players score in double digits. Afflalo was joined by Josh Shipp (11 points), Collison (12) and Mbah a Moute (15), who also grabbed 12rebounds.
Bruins shot well because they were being efficient on offense right from the tip off. They were making the extra passes and attacking the zone with gusto. Howland took note (from the same Dohn report):
"Taking good shots, especially being patient," Howland said was the key to the superb shooting. "I thought early in the game, we really made the extra pass."

The Bruins' sloppy, lackadaisical play allowed the Ducks to close to 60-51 on Malik Hairston's follow-up dunk and free throw with 4:09 to play - and trigger memories of Sunday's blown 17-point lead in the loss at Stanford - but Mbah a Moute quickly restored order with a put-back on UCLA's next possession.
Oh yeah Luc. He had an incredible game last night. His filled up the box score with 15 points, 12 boards, 4 blocks, and 4 steals, while going 6 for 6 from the field. Per Howland the key to Luc’s big night was trimming down his minutes:
He played 31 minutes Thursday, and Howland said that is likely to be his limit in the future.

"The difference between playing 31 and 36 minutes is huge," Howland said. "It's tough when you ask guys to play too many minutes."

Mbah a Moute made the most of his time Thursday. "Look at his line," Howland said, reading off each category. "And he played great defense. He really played with a lot of passion."
I have been amused at some of the belly aching going on about Luc this year (primarily in the deep weeds of Bruin message boards). Today Helen Elliott (who gave us the big scoop that crowd was chanting Luc not booing the team) wrote up the nonsense that apparently this year has been a "disappointing season" for Luc by "just about every possible measure." Never mind there is still about half a Pac-10 season left. Never mind that Luc’s scoring down is just a fraction despite the fact that he has been slowed down by some nagging injuries. Yet some how per writers like Elliott (and some over anxious fans) Luc has been having a bad year. Luc has been playing all right. The big differences from last year to this year are that he is no longer sneaking up on people, his game is well scouted, and he has been bothered by injuries. Yet through it all he has been contributing. Sure in the last few games he has been bothered by foul trouble and at certain time taking ill advised jumpers (from my perspective which Howland probably doesn’t agree with. So go with the Coach on that one lol). Yet Luc has been chipping away. And after some adjustments this week Luc had a great game against Oregon. Hopefully he can sustain that passion and intensity for rest of the season.

Speaking of passion the entire team played with the kind of focus and energy that propelled them to memorable run last year. Arron had a great defensive performance last night, as he helped contain the leading contender for Pac-10’s MVP award to just 14 points. However, Arron was quick to point out it wasn’t just him who helped contain the Duck’s superstar, it was the entire team helping each other out:
"It wasn't so much what I did," he said. "It was what my teammates did. The way (Mbah a Moute) hedged, the way (Collison) supported me when I needed it, the way Lorenzo (Mata) took a charge. It was purely a team effort."
Bruins are going to need that kind "team effort" to maintain the momentum from last night. I really hope they come out focused and with a purpose against Oregon State tomorrow. If they can ride the momentum of last night’s win, and use it to pull out another clean win this weekend, it may enable to hit their stride just like they did last season, during the last few games to close out the regular season.

After seeing the fire in the eyes of AA, Luc, DC and rest of the crew last night, seems like there is a good chance, we may be able to experience another euphoric ride rest of this season. Let’s hope they stay focused and keep it going.