Just about everyone in the Bruin family felt the sting yesterday. Losing to the 7th place Pac-10 team--that stings. Losing the last regular season Pac-10 game--that stings. Afflalo losing what might be his last regular season Pac-10 game--that stings bad. Collison shooting performance--ouch--another stinger. Yes, it all stings, and in case we'd forgotten, it sucks and hurts to lose.
Saturday was, however, no easy game. Throw Washington's 7th place record out the window and recall that they were highly ranked to begin the season. That team has very good players, and suffered some tough injuries this year. If they would have stayed healthy, they'd be a lock for the Tourney. Furthermore, they are terrific at home, and have just about 20 wins. Bottom line--we didn't lose to a dog meat team. We lost on the road to a good (and desperate) team.
Amidst the bad, I also saw some good things. Westbrook's play in the first half was terrific. He was quick, aggressive, and dominant. He had that great 3 point play, and just set a different tone. That is precisely his job when DC struggles, and I was happy with that.
I was also pleased with Mata's performance. 10 points, 9 boards, and some very solid play, especially early in the game. In the face of struggling guard play, Mata focused on what he does, didn't try to do too much, and had a good game. True, he wasn't able to keep Brockman and Hawes off the glass -- but he can't do it by himself. I thought Mata played well.
Finally, here was another game we had no business winning--down 16 on an atrociously poor shooting night in a game with no bearing on the Pac-10 standings--yet, the Bruins still made the run to get us within 1. I loved that. I wish we could have closed the deal, but it's that fight that I appreciate. They won't allow a team to blow them out, and that is why we win games like Gonzaga last year. I was happy with that.
There were also negatives from last night. DC played poorly and took it hard, AA was frustrated, and we got destroyed on the glass. Plus, like it or not, we have to be at least a little nervous about our # 1 seed. It's probably already ours, but we best win some more games in the Pac-10 Tourney to be sure. Plus, who wants to end the season with 2 losses in the last 3 or 4 games? I don't.
My biggest disappointment from last night was that we had a chance to finish off the regular season with 6 victories in a row against good teams--the same number that we'll need to win the title. However, despite our efforts, we weren't able to get it done--coming up as we did one game short of that march-a-liciously magic number. It always makes me nervous when we have to do something we haven't done all year - win 6 games against good teams - but that is what we'll have to do for the first time in a long time. [Yes, we won 14 in a row early in the season, but that always included some teams that weren't as good . . . plus that was months ago].
Final Thoughts: I saw some discussion in the post-game thread about a potential rift between DC and AA. I doubt that such tension exists--especially after AA's words on ESPN about DC yesterday--but I agree that Pucin's article definately put the seed of tension in the reader's head. However, in today's recap in the Daily News, Dohn's quotes make it seem that AA was really just protecting DC, and letting DC know that he doesn't have to get worried about his shooting percentages."You can't talk about anybody's shooting percentages because everybody has their night," UCLA guard Arron Afflalo said. "As a point guard, he's going to have to understand that he has to control both. A lot of our victories come because of him. "He has a lot of pressure of handling what everybody does on the team, so he has to do the best he can and not get caught up in his own percentages, and make sure everybody else has it going. That's the point guard's duty."
I for one am not worried about AA and DC, and I didn't think AA was calling DC out. Even were it true that they were not friends off the court, they need each other, and so far this season, they've played brilliantly. Expect that to continue.
Go Bruins. Hopefully the sting of Saturday pushes us to greatness in the next coming weeks.