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Building Off Our Ws

Let's start with Dohn this Sunday. The top line grafs in his story focus on the dazzling performance of Darren Collison:

Collison's career night enabled the eighth-ranked Bruins to overcome the slow start and demolish hapless Oregon State 85-62 in front of a season-high crowd of 8,235 Saturday at Gill Coliseum.

Collison's points are the most by a UCLA player since Dijon Thompson scored 39 against Arizona State on Feb.10, 2005.

"When Darren's moving with the rest of the team like he's moving now, we have a chance to be a real special team," UCLA center Kevin Love said. "Hopefully, we can take it really far."

Collison, who scored 22 points in Thursday's win at Oregon, was 9 of 12 from the field and added three assists in 38 minutes.

"He was unbelievably good this weekend," Howland said of Collison. "I can't say enough about him. He's really playing poised and smart. I'm really happy for him, and now we have to build on this."
As Coach Howland is on the mark again. Hopefully the performance from last two games will be the shot of confidence DC needed to make a special run through rest of the Pac-10 season.

DC's resilience has been remarkable given the mulitiple injuries (knee and hip) he had to deal with right out of the gate. And for a player like him whose games depends so much on speed and explosion, those injuries impacted his game more than others. In Dohn's report DC sounds relieved to put some of those injury issues behind him:
"Now, I don't have anything that bothers me and I feel 100 percent," Collison said. "It's more of a mental thing. The injuries, they can set you back, whether it's mentally, or physically. I was worrying about it, being bothered by it.

"You really can't do the moves you (usually) can do. You can't be explosive. It's a whole lot different when you're healthy."
Again lets hope DC and his team-mates build on last two games.

I also think its not a coincidence DC is getting back in the groove, while Love is dominating inside. I think lot of DC's success also has something to do with our Ben Ball warriors making concerted effort to run our offense through Love. Opposing defenders are so consumed with containing Love inside that it is opening up room for explosive athletes like DC and Westbrook to wreak havoc from the perimeter.

It sure makes the game "fun" for all of our guys:
"He's a pure point guard," Love said of Collison. "He can really shoot the ball. He can really take it to the (basket). He's one of the fastest guards in the country, and he's a lot of fun to play with."
That was Love in Dohn's article today.

Now as spectacular as Love and Collison's performances were this past week our team still have some issues to deal with. And some of it is on the defensive front. As noted by Kuwada in his OC Register write-up today:
The defensive lapses continued through the first half, the Bruins allowing Oregon State (6-14, 0-8) to work its way back from an 11-point deficit to take a lead at 33-32 with 4:34 remaining when Seth Tarver knocked down a 3-pointer.

After the Bruins regained control, the Beavers cut it to 43-39 at halftime when Lathen Wallace drove by Shipp on the left baseline and to the basket as the clock expired.

Oregon State hit 48.5 percent of its shots in the half, and this not only is a team that is ranked last in the conference in scoring, in field-goal percentage and in 3-point field goal percentage, but on pace to become the first team to go winless in the conference since USC in 1975-76 when it was the Pac-8.

Our defense hasn't looked consistent in last two games. And I think one of the reasons for that is the absence of Luc. In absence of Luc last two games our guards have been giving their opponents a little more room around the perimeter. They have been sagging off a bit allowing the opposing guards to dribble around them. Things become different when Luc is in the game.  Our interior defense is lot tighter with Luc.  His presence allows our guards to play much tighter on ball defense and then of course Luc makes his contributions in those vicious double team. Yeah so what I am getting to is that in some way Luc is the glue, who tightens up our defense and allow it to wrap around the opposing team like a boa constrictor. And his absence last couple of games has really impacted its effectiveness.

And don't forget the absence or sporadic availability of Mata-Real. It was great to see the kid coming around late in the game last night. I am sure this made feel a little better (thanks again to Grok451 for these videos):

As well as this:

We are all rooting hard for to him become totally healthy and get back in form. But before last night he hadn't been himself for a while. It date backs to before the concussion he suffered during Southern Cal game. Ever since his groin injury he hasn't been the same. Of course our coaches and players will not accept injuries as excuses. And they will do what they can to gut through this adversity like they have over the years in similar situations (think back to our mash unit two years ago).

Lastly, one thing that is really bugging me is some of the quick foul calls on AA2 and Keefe. AA2 was alright last night but Keefe picked up 3 fouls in 8 mins.  Yeah I get the fact that AA2 sometimes acts like the proverbial bull in a china shop and Keefe is getting himself back in shape. But I feel like some of the calls that are going against them is based on their reputation (in case of AA2) or in case of Keefe the refs are not giving him the benefit of the doubt they let other more established players in the league get away with (including some of our own). I guess Keefe will get his share of calls in the coming years. But it must be awfully frustrating when some of the ticky tack calls totally throw a player off rhythm who is working very hard to get back in total game shape.

All in all our guys are still in decent shape despite all the early season injury related adversity they have had to deal with. Just like Coach Howland said they need to build off this road trip and work on improving their games from here on out. The exciting thing about our team is there is still room for improvement and they are not clicking on all cylinders just yet. They are still going through the process of gelling as a team working out their kinks. Let's enjoy it.