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
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.
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:
"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."
"I expect to make those shots," Shipp said. "But this was a team effort."
"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."
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:
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.
Like Coach Howland said about last night, we expect this to be another war.
Let’s get it on.