Sounds like it was an incredible night for the Bruin Nation. For those of us who weren't at Pauley yesterday, Insomniac was kind enough to email us this video he was able to capture after the game was over:
That's good stuff. Those lucky bastards in the Den.
I can't imagine the emotion they were experiencing during that scene. Well I am sure they will still be writing and talking decades later when they get nostalgic as some 30 something Bruin alum over at some blog fanatical about blue and gold.
To the game. Many of you have already chimed in with some great observations and great stories in the diaries and post game thread. I will see if I can add some thoughts based on what I am reading today, and more importantly what I saw transpiring on TV.
It was emotional. Ben Ball warriors were jacked up for yesterday's game. Here is Coach Howland in Pucin's game wrap up on how amped up our players were heading into the tip off, which also explains why the Bruins looked a little tight early in the first half:
"Normally they're here an hour, 15 minutes before the game," Howland said. "Today they were dressed and ready to go an hour 45 minutes early. They were really amped up. Maybe too much."
Afflalo, Collison and Michael Roll all missed open jump shots at the start. Afflalo, an 81% free-throw shooter, even missed two of his first three free throws. The Bruins had a 36-33 halftime lead because Afflalo scored on a four-point play with 59.7 seconds left. He made a fall-away three-point basket and was fouled. The free throw gave UCLA a 36-30 lead.
You can sense what kind of defense Bruins were playing if you consider how AA limited Lawrence Hill to just 13 points (4 for 9) effectively shutting Stanford's main weapon, who killed the Bruins last time out.
And there were those 16 Stanford TOs in the face of that classic, suffocating, Ben Ball pressure around perimeter. I really loved how DC was forcing Johnson to spend so much energy to bring the ball up court, was by the time Stanford was getting into their sets, they didn't have much time to execute.
On offense AA once again led all the scorers with a smooth 20 point performance. As Pucin mentioned above he changed the complexion of the entire game late in that first half with the four point play. That was an early dagger, the momentum from which propelled the Bruins to their key run early on the second half.
It was Mata and Luc's play though that had me really excited yesterday. Mata barely missed scoring in the double digits (8 points) for the fourth consecutive game. I am not sure if we can conclude whether he is getting into the same groove, that Hollins found himself in late last season, but the signs clearly point him to getting pretty comfortable. From Helen Elliott's column in the LA Times:
"I thought Lorenzo again played really strong for us," Howland said. "He did a good job battling those big guys down there."
For Mata, his improvement is easily explained. "It's just a matter of confidence," he said. "The more shots I take, the more confident I get. I'm getting more comfortable down low."
As for Luc, again I am digging how this kid is starting to drive around the baseline and attacking the rim. He must be feeling a little better these days. He had 11 points and 7 boards in 23 mins (fouled out early). He probably could have had 4 more points as he barely missed finishing up on 2 layup opportunities after driving around his man around the baseline. That's the Luc I was hoping to see during early part of the conference game. Better late then never I guess. I just hope Luc keeps playing like this and keep attacking the rim. If he keeps doing that we will continue to experience the festive atmosphere everyone soaked in at Pauley.
Speaking of that festive atmosphere, thought this note in Elliott's column courtesy of former Bruin great Mike Warren was pretty interesting (HT to 66):
"I think Coach Howland has really turned the program around. He's brought a new spirit, a whole different attitude and defensive scheme that has not been seen since Jim Harrick," said Warren, slender and dapper and not far from his playing shape at a few weeks short of his 61st birthday.
"The fans are now coming out and they know what to expect. They know they're going to have a hard-fought game. The team is not going to give up.
"I think at this time they're on the crest of something great."
Obviously something very special is in the air with Coach Howland's basketball program (and the contrast with his counter part involved with other major revenue program couldn't be more stark). Anyways ...
I know everyone here is ridiculously excited. And we should be. We have every reason to get lathered up in a frenzy with the Madness just days away. But please note over here on the main page we are going to take one game at a time. So we are not going to look beyond the Washington State game (Doesn't mean you guys can't engage in discussion wrt to the big picture in the diary section. That's what they are there for!). But we will take our cues from Coach Howland, AA and rest of his team-mates and keep taking this season one game at time. From AA in the OC Register's game wrap up:
"There were times last year where we were just focused in, and it seemed like every possession was hard for the other team. Every shot was contested, every pass, every move, was complicated for the other team. You could tell.
"This year, we still have some little lapses. I think if we take care of those things, we'll be fine when the time is right."
Let's soak it all in. Let's enjoy every day of this special ride one game at a time.