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Back to Basics

We have reset the countdown clock so that it keys on Weber State. As expected all the papers today are playing up the themes of Ben Howland Regional. However, as mentioned last night here on BN, at least on the home page, we are not going to get caught up any potential matchups, and just focus only on the Bruins’ next opponent. Bruins are taking on a Weber State team, which Dohn reports has a history of pulling big upsets around this time of the year:

Getting a win in the tournament will build confidence, but the Bruins face a Weber State team that has improved dramatically from the beginning of the season and a program known for pulling first-round upsets.

The Wildcats (20-11), who won the Big Sky Tournament title with 10 new players, are well-versed in NCAA upset lore. As a 14th seed, they defeated North Carolina in 1999, and Michigan State in 1995.
I remember that upset against UNC really well. It happened on the same night when Lavin’s crew went down in flame against Detroit-Mercy.

In order to make sure there is no repeat of the embarrassment of last Thursday night Coach Howland is getting back to basics:
"We had a good practice Saturday," Howland said. "Yes, there's concern coming off the loss to Cal…. Saturday we got back to some real basics, things we haven't done since Oct. 15. We improved as a team Saturday. I had a good feeling coming out of practice."

Point guard Darren Collison, seven for 30 from the field over the last two games, was defiantly unconcerned about shooting.

"I'm worried about defense," Collison said. "That's where it starts. We're not an offensive team. It all starts with defense."

While it seemed more eye-opening that Afflalo had only three points in the Cal loss, what was more revealing, the junior said, was how the Bears shot 54.2% from the field while building a 37-25 halftime lead.

"All season we took pride in our defense," he said. "As a team we have to realize that (we) can't falter."
OC Register’s Kuwada has more on how DC (and rest of his team-mates) is feeling a sense of urgency:
"It's easy - if we play with a sense of urgency and a lot of energy, we should be all right. We understand that we need to play with more of a sense of urgency and we can. Obviously, we have to go back to our roots. We've got to continue to play the way we have been playing in the past two months. Playing against Cal, I think we saw a lot of things that were exposed, things that we normally do that we didn't do. We've got to get back to it, get better."
In addition to focusing on getting back to basics and fundamentals, Howland did put in a wrinkle in Saturday’s practice:
Arron Afflalo, UCLA's All-American guard, said Howland altered his practice setup of starters against reserves. Afflalo and point guard Darren Collison were on one side, and power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and wing Josh Shipp on the other.

"We had a very hard practice, and it feels like we're a winning team again," Afflalo said. "It was real competitive, very intense. Coach mixed up the teams and it made it very competitive."
In addition to practice AA also hit the weight room hard to calm himself down heading into this week (from Kuwada’s report):
Afflalo on Sunday said he salved his esteem in the weight room.

"I benched more than I ever benched before. It's funny how it gives you that inspiration," he said. "Our strength coach told me that lifting weights gets rid of nervous energy, any kind of anxiety, any type of frustration, and it's true. After I lifted, I felt a little calmer as if I had done something positive for myself, coming off such a negative game. It was good. Confidence was there and I'm ready to play."
It’s going to be another long week. I think we are all going to be at a fever pitch by 7:25 EST Thursday night. Let’s hope our guys pace themselves this week, and come out focused and energized Thursday night.