clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Well, how should we start this? Oh, how about going with this from Rusty Simmons in the S.F. Chronicle:

The Bruins (14-1, 2-0) toyed with Cal (10-3, 1-1) as if the Bears were their little brother in a bedroom game of hoop-on-the-door Nerf basketball.
And yet we had morons like Ted Robinson who kept talking about some kind of "rivalry" between the Cal Bears and our Ben Ball warriors. Yes, I completely realize that the Bay Area doubleheader is one of the most difficult trips in the Pac-10, if not the entire country, but that still doesn't merit the use of the word "rivalry" to describe the relationship between the basketball programs of UCLA and UC Berkeley.

Anyway, let's talk about last night's game. And we will start with Kevin Love, who right now IMHO is not only in the running for Pac-10 FOY, if he keeps up what he did in the Bay Area this past week, he will also have to get some serious consideration for the MVP award as well. The guy made defending the monster front courts of the Lopez brothers and Hardin-Anderson look like a cake walk. From the Daily News:
"I think it's incredible to be that good against those four guys," Ben Howland said. " Kevin Love played like a man today."

Neither Hardin nor Anderson made a field goal in the first half as the two combined to go 0 for 8 from the field. They finished with a combined 20 points but were 6 of 18 from the field.

The Bears made just 5 of their first 19 shots.

"We got two wins and that's what counts," Love said. "Two wins on the road against two very good teams. Most teams are going to be hard to sweep."

It would seem any freshman - even one as good as Love - would have a learning curve once he entered the Pac-10. His defense was somewhat shaky at the start of the season, but even Howland - a defensive guru - has marveled at Love's improvements in that department.

Love, who's averaging 16.7 points and 10.2 rebounds, also liked what he did offensively. He made 8 of 10 field goals - his two misses were from 3-point range - and played 30 minutes.
Love's improvement on the defensive end in just the last two weeks has been remarkable to watch. He has come a long way from the Texas game. And his improvement is not just limited to the defensive side of the court.

He is looking even smoother on the offensive side, making it easy for his team-mates to find him down low.  He is even being smarter with his outlet passes. Watch Kevin closely when he is launching those "Laser Loves." Last night, he was going through reads, just like a QB checking off his first and second options in a football game. He has been doing this a lot more since the Texas game at Pauley, when the Horn were getting back and breaking up some of his long bombs. Not last night. He was going through his reads in split seconds before launching them out. Just a delight to watch.

Also a delight to watch was our team defense during this Bay Area trip. And let's hear how the opponents feel about it.  From Jeff Faraudo in the San Jose Mercury News:
"You really have to take what the defense gives you, and they don't give you much," Cal Coach Ben Braun said. "Defensively, they're physical and they shrink the court on you. You have to be patient, can't be frustrated."

Sophomore forward Ryan Anderson, the Pac-10's top scorer at 21.6 points per game, shot 0 for 6 in the first half and wound up with 12 points only after hitting two three-pointers in the final four minutes.

"I wasn't playing like my normal self. I was a little soft," Anderson said. "I need to embrace the double teams when they come, and hit the open guys."
Well, it was a total team effort on the part of our Ben Ball warriors that made the Bears appears in their own words a little "soft." From the LA Times:
After UCLA had the fast start, the Bears never got closer than 38-36. Besides Love's effort, point guard Collison played what UCLA Coach Ben Howland called his best game of the season with 14 points and five assists. Shipp had 13 points and Westbrook added 11 and seven rebounds. Shipp's final basket, a runner in the lane, gave him 1,000 points at UCLA.

The Bears (10-3, 1-1) had been outrebounding opponents by six a game this year, but UCLA had 43 to California's 30.
DC still seems to be recovering from his knee injury and you can see he is little off on his 3 point shots. However, he was great in the second half yesterday, taking some great shots within the rhythm of our offense. Maybe it's just me. But I think it's not a coincidence that DC's game is coming along as Russell is exploding (more on that guy below) in the conference/national scene. DC is still not the same because he just doesn't have his natural explosiveness. But his game is getting better and a lot of it, IMHO, is the natural result of a competitive streak wanting to shine, when a teammate like RW is setting the standard.

And if we want to talk about team-effort, we have to talk about James Keefe. Keefe played for 4 mins yesterday. In those 4 mins, he managed to get a basket, pull down 2 rebounds, including one on the offensive end. To me, what is impressive above Keefe this year is that he looks a lot more sure of himself. He knows where to be on the court, and what his role is in the scheme of Coach Howland. And he knows the value of team. From Painter in the DN on Keefe's perspective re burning his redshirt year:
In a perfect world, Keefe would have redshirted.

But UCLA is essentially playing with a seven-man rotation and needs Keefe to play key minutes off the bench.

"You've got to put the team first and the team needed me," Keefe said. "I'm not sure what's best for me."

Keefe said he understands that UCLA has a chance to win a championship now, and that he had to play "to accomplish what we want to accomplish."
Well, Keefe is certainly doing his part now. One more point on Keefe's mins from yesterday. Keefe's 4 mins (and Stanbeck's 6 mins) allowed Coach Howland to rest Luc and AA2, who already had 2 fouls in the first half. And, more importantly, it kept our big guys sharp in the second half, allowing them to put the squeeze on the ("soft") Cal front court. It worked out perfectly in the team scheme of things.

Despite all the positives from yesterday, I do want to bring up a couple of points just to nitpick. Again, I am only bringing up these points up because I do believe there is room for improvement.

I will start with Shipp. Shipp had a great night against Stanford. He was feeling it. And he was connecting on those long range bombs as he was in rhythm. He was not in rhythm last night, going 2 for 8 from the 3 point line, finishing off the night at 4 for 13. Now I love Shipp's smooth game and his demeanor of a stone cold assassin. He never looks frazzled and always has that calm demeanor. However, I still think he needs to recognize that when he is not connecting from the outside, he can contribute in other ways to get his confidence back. One thing I loved about AA was, during the nights he was not connecting from outside, he would focus all his energy on defense, and try to get points another way by trying to drive inside (without being out of control). My guess is, at this point, Coach Howland knows what he is going to get from Shipp offensively (and not get defensively) and he is willing to live with that. All I am asking from Shipp is to play in control a little more, recognizing the limitations in his game. That is all.

Second, I understand Coach Howland's reasoning in bringing Russell off the bench and keeping Luc at the 3. It helps with his substitution pattern and it was great yesterday. But, to me, Luc still looks out of place at the 3, picking up unnecessary fouls chasing around the other team's SF. The team looks so much better off when he is at the 4, swarming around the boards both offensively and defensively, and being a total menace.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot(via ESPN)

Again, we will see how long Howland stays with the current lineup starting AA2. For now though, you can't argue with the results.

Anyway, I think those are nitpicks. But I am sure the coaching staff is aware of them and I have no doubt they are going to try to find ways to work around them.

Going back to last night's game, big ups to the Bay Area Bruin Nation. Even with the quality of FSN broadcasting, we could hear the Bruins often dominating the Bear contingent at Haas with all the UCLA chants. It was awesome to hear them own that place.

And we will end this wrap up with Russell. From the LA Times again:
"Nobody just stops me," Westbrook said. "I just keep on going and when I scored, I kept going, getting back on defense. I've got to see this one though. I've got to see how it looks. From what my teammates say, it looks nice."
Well RW, you asked for it, so here you go again:

Nice is definitely a word for it.