I will be frank. Heading into last night’s game, I was feeling pretty gloomy about our prospects against Oregon on their home court. We didn’t have Luc. We didn’t have Mata-Real. Those are two of our toughest and most experienced warriors who have been through all the wars. Our backcourt was in a funk and then there was all the mental games that were going around Kevin Love.
So even for someone like me who has completely drunk on Ben Ball kool aid, I was resigned to the idea that the Bruins could lose last night and then look to recover from their first two game slide since the middle of the 05-06 season.
Well, I am a little more than giddy about our warriors once again proving my doubts totally wrong and delivering what Coach Howland is calling the "best" win of his (what will turn out to be a HOF) career to date:
The Bruins came in short-handed because starting forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and backup center Lorenzo Mata-Real were sidelined with concussions suffered in Saturday's loss to USC. Early in the second half, starting forward Alfred Aboya and the new sixth man James Keefe had each four fouls. UCLA also is missing swingman Michael Roll (foot) who would be the sixth man in the rotation.
"Three of our top seven guys are out," Howland said, "and we beat a really good team. It was unbelievable."
There is no need for me to wax poetic about who was the man last night. From Brian Dohn on a Bruin performance for the ages:
"Kevin Love was just dominating," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "I thought he handled (the crowd) really well. It never affected him at all. Overall, he was very poised. I thought our team was very poised.
"I knew how good (Love) was. This doesn't surprise me at all what he's doing. It's unbelievable. He's the best freshman I've ever coached and you look at what he's doing right now, it's incredible."
And for all that nonsense and stupid tricks the PC idiots were throwing at him. Well, here is Mr. Love’s reaction (in Dohn’s article):
Photo Credit:Jonathan Ferrey / Getty Images (via LA Times)
Speaking of "pretty nice," let’s talk a little about DC. Following the disappointing game against Southern Cal, DC comes up with his best game of the season. He scored a career high 22 points, with a huge chunk of them coming when the Bruins needed him most. He was poised, calm and kept his team under control. And guess who brought out the best in him? From Dohn again:
Now, if you didn’t see the game, there were two key sequences that really turned the tide for our warriors. From the OC Register:
Down 71-67, Dragovic hit the 3-pointer from the right to bring the Bruins to a one-point deficit. Oregon (12-7, 304) had a chance to build that lead again, but Russell Westbrook came from behind to knock the ball away from Maarty Leunen, the ball bouncing out to midcourt where the Bruins' guard gathered it in and took it the rest of the way for a layup that gave UCLA a lead with 2:38 to play.
"They'd been doing the same play the whole game. It was just a point of rotating over. I saw it there so I just took the steal," Westbrook said of the play. "The shot clock was running down, time was running out, so I knew he had to shoot pretty soon. I was just waiting on it."
As our guys move on from last night, we still have a few kinks to work out.
It might be a good idea to rest up Luc and Mata-Real even more to get them totally ready for next week. I think the Oregon State game presents a great opportunity for Keefe to step up. He played ok in spurts last night. He had a key 3 pointer. However, he needs to play in a little more control. And speaking of playing in control, COMEON AA2. Comeon man. I love that kid’s hustle, heart, and desire. But he just needs to control himself just a little bit.
Our defense also needs to improve heading into Saturday’s game. I thought our on ball defense was very poor early. Those guys were getting many good looks from the paint. They were scoring at will early on with a lot of layups. I think we caught a break when Malik went out with the injury. We had no answer for that guy, as our forwards looked helpless matching up against him.
We really need to tighten up our perimeter D and can’t let their guards go right around us. We are not going to go very far this season if we don’t lock up perimeter defense.
However, those are issues that I think are correctable. And we have a coach who will be working away relentlessly with his players to correct those issues and improve as a team every day. We will sit back and enjoy the ride.
And, in my case, I should never doubt our Ben Ball warriors.