Ben Ball warriors win another huge tournament game with defense. Bruins took on one of the best coached teams in the tournament and pulled out an impressive win by going to their bread and butter. Once again Bruins came out playing focused, suffocating, stifling defense for the third game in a row, which was very reminiscent of the defense they were playing through the stretch run of last season. Led by AA and DC’s leadership in the back-court and a superb effort from our bigs, Bruins shut down the Pitt Panthers. Dohn reports on another stellar defensive effort from our boys in blue and gold:
"Our defense was spectacular, I thought," Howland said. "It had to be, or we weren't going to win this game. We've played good defense now our last three games in a row. I really credit our guys, just preparation, how focused they are, they heart, the intensity they play on every possession."
Going into last night’s game the focus was on Pitt’s man in the middle. Dohn has the low down on how our bigs (led by Mata) defensively dominated one of the best centers in the country.
Even with little-used sophomore Ryan Wright guarding Gray, the Panthers' big man did nothing. Aboya also limited Gray, whose biggest moment of the first half was blocking Arron Afflalo's 3-point attempt in the closing seconds of the first half.
Gray scored four points in the opening half, and did not attempt a shot after a dunk with 14:22 remaining.
The Bruins, advancing to a regional final for the second consecutive year for the first time since 1979 and ’80, basically shuttered Gray, doubling hard when the ball went into the post.
Gray didn’t even get a shot during the final 14:22 of the half (sitting on the bench for part of the stretch), and went into a silent mode after his dunk got Pitt to within 10-9. Even to that point, Gray had difficulty finishing close to the basket, hitting only two of shots. And he did little else the rest of the half, other than turn the ball over with an errant cross-court pass when doubled by Aboya and Keefe.
"It always feels good to get a dunk," Keefe said. "It boosts your confidence."
"James was really excellent," said Mbah a Moute, who sat out the final 16:38 of the first half after he'd acquired two fouls.
"James gave us a huge game," said center Lorenzo Mata, who also had two fouls in the first eight minutes.
It was a total team effort. And our boys won the game even though some of them individually didn’t have spectacular offensive night. IIRC Shipp was the only Bruin who made more than 3 FGs. I don’t believe AA had a single FG in the second half. Neither did Luc. AA did exactly what we needed him to when his shots were not falling. He kept battling, staying focused on the defensive side of the ball, while getting himself to the FT line. It kept him and his team on a defensive rhythm. From Helen Elliot in the LAT:
Defense remains the constant, whether they're playing an up-tempo game or the deliberate and ugly game they played in defeating Indiana in the second round.
"The thing about us is that at the beginning of the season, the coaches were preaching fastbreak, push it out more," Collison said, "but teams started slowing it up more and we have to prepare ourselves. This team is doing a good job of doing that.
Last year, there was almost this sense of discovery as UCLA honed in and seemed to improve with every game.
That run included a spectacular comeback against Gonzaga in a Sweet 16 matchup.
This UCLA team plays with confidence borne from that run, with perhaps less exuberance but with greater calm, a sense of purpose.