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Uh, yeah, so I am a little spent this morning.

That wasn't fun. That was 40 minutes of stressful, agonizing, maddening, frustrating, and often infuriating Ben Ball. I had a feeling last night's game was going to be stressful and a matter of the Bruins having to survive and advance. Second round games have never been fun for our Bruins. We had a heart stopper against Bama last season. Of course, everyone remembers the game against Missouri in 1995. And then there was Tracy Murray's last second FT shots which knocked out (Roy Williams coached) KU in 1990. I had a feeling we had one of those coming, given the team Sampson has put together in Bloomington.

I realize why some here are not happy about how the team lost its composure during the last few minutes of the game. I realize why folks are not happy about the offense at all. Yes, we are not invincible. We could have seen our run end last night or we could see it end against Howland's former team. But, with all that said, I think for me it really all comes down to this:

UCLA won, 54-49, and heads to San Jose for the West Regional. Downgrade the Bruins if you wish, but what other team could win a game on this stage with the first-team All-American going 2 for 11?

Afflalo dealt with it. He's been there before, too.
When IU was making the run in the second half, like many of you, my heart was sinking (and it wasn't being helped by the fact we were sitting next to a group of obnoxious UNC fans who were cheering for IU), and my mind was going back to the Gonzaga game. I was hoping and praying it wasn't some kind of karmic payback for the miracle in Oakland. Thank God things turned out the way it did. But, on my way home, when I was replaying the game in my head over and over again, it occurred to me the game that it really reminded me of was the Butler/tOSU game from earlier in the day.

You all saw Butler lost all their composure on the offensive side of the ball, but they also lost the game because they seemed to have lost their will on the defensive side of the court as well. Same thing didn't happen to UCLA when they found themselves in pretty much identical circumstances.
Good (to great) teams find a way to hang on when things are not going right. From Helen Elliot in the LA Times.
That's how the best teams win, by finding a saving grace in a game that was otherwise graceless. "We have a confidence, not cockiness or arrogance, that in tight games we still understand what it takes to win," Afflalo said. "We've had some tough battles in our conference this year. We're still learning and maturing."

They learned Saturday that style counts for less than substance.
Luckily for our guys, they were able to maintain their composure in that last minute and find a way to will themselves to win.

Now, let's get back to our offense. Now that we look back at it, it wasn't pretty. It was infuriating to watch at times. However, I am not sure how much we can fault the offensive scheme Coach Howland has in place. The fact is we were missing one close range shot after another. Luc (and DC) turned out to be one of the player(s) of the game. However, he was one of the guys who was missing some close layups early on. I have mentioned this before. I don't think Luc has regressed this year. I think he has generally stayed at the same level he was at last year, improving other areas of his game. However, I do think he hasn't been finishing/cleaning up near the basket, scoring (invaluable) garbage points with the frequency he was doing it last year. He just needs to get up to the rim a little stronger. He has the ability to do it. It's just a matter of will power, which he has, as we saw from him during the closing minute of last night's ball game.

I have to say I was also frustrated to see Westbrook not getting much playing time in second half. I caught a snipe of Howland's post game press conference via the ESPN College Gameday post game highlights, in which he lamented about not using his bench as much, because he wanted the stay with the veteran combination of DC, AA, and Shipp. But I think perhaps it would have helped to put in Westbrook in second half. That's the kid who might have helped the Bruins step on the gas instead of going into a shell mode, when they went up by 16. Again, Westbrook changed up the game when he came in during the first half (just like he has done numerous times this year). He went up to the rim strong and he absolutely showed no fear when the Hoosiers were trying to establish a physical presence around their hoop. And you could sense how his energy and determination was having an effect on the entire team. Coach, please let us have some more of that.

I also want to make a specific observation on AA. As Dohn noted in his game report, even though AA had a very average night, he stepped up in the last minute of the game and got himself to the FT line. Maybe I am off here. But I am surprised we don't see a little more of that from AA. Sometimes, perhaps, AA is unselfish to a fault. I always thought AA has been pretty good in slashing/driving towards the basket getting opportunities for close shots, or getting himself to the FT line. So maybe that is something his coaches can make him think about when his outside shots are not falling (like last night).

Anyways, for more on last night's game, check out the post game reports on how our Ben Ball warriors willed us to Coach Howland's 58th win over the last two seasons (uh, yeah, there is that little detail of Howland now having a record of 58-12 in his last two seasons in Westwood) from Dilbeck (DN), Pucin (LAT), and Kuwada (OCR).

We will put this game behind us and move and starting Monday get ready for Pitt. That is going to be another difficult game, and I am sure we are going to hear about the obvious story lines all week. That game is not going to be fun. However, we are going to have fun digging up and sharing info on a program perhaps being coached by the next UCLA head coach, after Coach Howland retires in a glorious fashion from Westwood. So it should be a fun week leading up to the Sweet-16, which is not bad considering how angst ridden we all were for more than two hours of stressful basketball moments of this tourney season.

Thanks again to our coaches and our players for not losing their composure and willing the team to win. We get to soak in the Madness for at least another game. People can call us a pollyana blog (will have to use this link during football season!) all they want. We are not going to apologize for a program which has averaged 29 wins during the last two seasons.

Anyways, one game at a time folks. Let's not think about anything else except how our Ben Ball warriors are going to will us to another victory next week.

But, at least for today, soak in the Madness a bit and enjoy your Sunday. I will put up a special tourney thread in a bit.