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"It was a war"

Let’s get to right to last night’s huge win at Maples. Again, I don’t think we can emphasize enough what a huge win it was. The Bruins needed that win to get started on the right note in what should be a very difficult Pac-10 season during which every road game is going to be a challenge. So to pull out what ended up being a win by a comfortable margin in a difficult atmosphere, by locking down a very well coached team on defense, while out executing them on offense, was monumental for a team which may be stocked with veterans but were looking for an identity in the post Arron Afflalo era. And there was one kid whose effort really stood out. From Underbruin

The player of the game was not, hard as it may be to believe given his stellar shooting, Josh Shipp. That honor, in my opinion, belongs to Russell Westbrook. He had one of the most efficient games I've ever seen, with 15 points on 6-7 shooting (1-2 on 3s, 2-2 at the line). In addition, he had 6 assists and 2 steals, with 0 turnovers. Despite coming off the bench, he played nearly the whole game (35 minutes), valuable given the loss of Roll and Collison's periodic struggles. An excellent all-around effort.
And the effort came despite the fact that Russell came off the bench for the first time this season. From Robyn Norwood in the LA Times:
This time, Russell Westbrook began the game on the bench and Alfred Aboya started, a move made by Howland to keep from wearing down his four key perimeter players all at once.

Instead of pouting, Westbrook had 15 points, six assists and made six of seven shots. The 6-3 guard's putback after he darted under the basket for an offensive rebound gave UCLA a four-point lead and helped spark the decisive spurt for the Bruins.

"I'm fine with it, as long as we win," Westbrook said.

The next possession, he fell with the ball but still made a pass to Shipp, who got the ball to Kevin Love, who was fouled and made two free throws.
And more from the Daily News with RW’s perspective:
"Whatever Coach needs me to do, I'll do," Westbrook said.
As I have said before I think it will be this kid who will end up being an AA like leader before he is done at UCLA.

Now Russell had a fantastic night. So did all of his team-mates, which included Josh Shipp. Coach Howland was gushing in Shipp’s praise. From the Daily News again:
Shipp hit a 3-pointer from the left wing, then had a steal, which led to a Darren Collison free throw. He then drove to the basket and scored for UCLA's 10-point advantage.

"Josh's eyes - I've never seen him so ready to play a game," Howland said. "He was so ready to play the game tonight. There was a special gleam in his eyes I'd never seen before."
And from Shipp himself in Pucin’s report in the LA Times:
Shipp, who played with a gleam in his eye according to UCLA Coach Ben Howland, finished with a game-high 21 points. The fourth-year junior made five of his eight three-point attempts, including the 24-footer that gave UCLA a 58-51 lead with 7:21 left.

"I expect to make those shots," Shipp said. "But this was a team effort."
And it was a total team effort on defense. Particularly noteworthy was Love’s defense last night. He was instrumental in the total team effort of the Ben Ball warriors who bottled up Stanford’s monster front court, while giving little space to their guards. Norwood has more on the defensive strategy that took apart the Cards (hey can I say Cards?) at Maples:
The Bruins' defense was deceiving, partly because what you noticed was Mitch Johnson and Anthony Goods getting into the lane, not so much Brook and Robin Lopez not doing much.

"We were so conscious of pressuring them early that we gave up some drives," Howland said, saying some teams back off the guards and give them time and space to lob the ball in to the Lopez brothers.

Love, getting his first real dose of big man's school, earned his grade from Howland, who called it Love's best defensive game of the year.

"None of us in this room can understand how big and strong and physical it is in there," Howland said. "It was a war."
Love’s calm and poise was beautiful to watch. It is just awesome to see him get inside (and he was getting fed pretty well with some good entry passes last night), draw fouls, and knock down clutch FTs. He was money. I am bummed that I missed AA2’s 3 pointer. He had a great game last night. And I thought he got shortchanged on at least a couple of the fouls that were called against him.

Luc’s production in terms of rebounding went down a bit, but that was to be expected because of his shift to 3 from 4, where he found himself chasing around the opposing forward, instead of hanging around inside to pick up the loose garbage. Yet, he had a solid night defensively, as the guy he ended up guarding a lot – Lawrence Hill (who had a pretty big night against us last year at Maples) – finished with only 6 points (2-6).

Also, Keefe IMHO had a great start. He only got 4 minutes. But he pulled in 2 rebounds, including an offensive board. And he was also active moving around. The only shot he took was also a decent look from the outside. He looked a lot more sure of himself in terms of court awareness than he did at the same point last season.

If you are looking for a fun read, make sure to read Ratto’s commentary in the SF Chronicle flagged by bruinhoo:
[T]he difference between the two teams is not found in the box score, but in the brainpans. UCLA has been at this with this group longer than Stanford, and has gotten the last few nuances of coach Ben Howland's rigid, often arrhythmic system down to near muscle memory level. The Cardinal, not so much.

It isn't that Stanford's fate was decided with this defeat; far from it. It wasn't even that there is a huge difference between the Bruins and Cardinal. No, what we learned Thursday evening was that Howland almost always has an extra card or two to play, and he plays them, and plays them, and plays them - all until the other guy has to fold his hand, or exhaust his chips trying to stay in.

The telling point Thursday, in fact, was that Johnson layup after three missed gimmes, because it was the last meaningful basket the Cardinal scored. They were outscored 13-4 after that, taken out by veteran forward Josh Shipp's steely poise and UCLA's contentious interior defense.

You know, the stuff that UCLA always does to turn a close game into an almost-comfortable win.
Yeah, I know Ratto is equivalent of Simers of the Bay Area. But it is still fun to read those grafs! All around, a very satisfying win. However, it’d be foolish for our Ben Ball warriors to rest easy. They will have to come back with the same intensity and fire against the Bears tomorrow, when they get to take on a very talented Cal team with a monster front court.

Like Coach Howland said about last night, we expect this to be another war.

Let’s get it on.