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Let's Go! Lockdown at Pauley

It all started with our defense.

Let's start with Diane Pucin in the LA Times:

Love was one of four double-digit scorers for UCLA. Collison led the way with 17, Westbrook had 16 plus five assists, five steals and five turnovers, and Shipp had 10. And, as UCLA Coach Ben Howland said, Mbah a Moute finished a "missed free throw" away from also scoring in double digits. He had nine points and seven rebounds. For Oregon, junior Maarty Leunen had 17 points and 11 rebounds.

Love said he had felt "really sick" the last two weeks but didn't use illness as an excuse for why he didn't take a shot for nearly 18 minutes after scoring a two-handed slam to open UCLA's scoring in the first two minutes.

All the Bruins seemed out of sorts when Porter made a 16-footer with 13:55 left to put Oregon ahead 49-438. [Ed.]

What changed from that point, what jump-started UCLA's 19-4 run that turned the game around, was an energetic dose of defensive pressure and a determination to drive to the basket.

"Our defense created some easy baskets," Howland said.
I think what we saw during that 19-4 stretch was the reemergence of the LOCKDOWN D we became accustomed during the days of Arron Afflalo. We saw that during closing mins of last Sunday night's game at Pauley East, when our D completely dominated, throttled, and shut down our opposition.

Let me go back to AA again. Under AA's leadership our defense would not only lock down our opposition, he and his team-mates would use their D to generate offense. And that's what happened at Pauley yesterday. From Dohn:
"Defense," coach Ben Howland said of what changed for his Bruins in the run. "We created some easy baskets in the run to fight back. We got some lay-ups. Russell (Westbrook) had the one dunk, and I think that energized the guys. There was a lot of steals."
The suffocating on-ball pressure from our guards sped the Ducks up. From Dohn again:
During the 19-4 run, which ended when Love made a free throw with 2:51 to play to give the Bruins a 64-56 lead, UCLA had three dunks, a layup and made two wide-open 3-pointers.

"When we did speed them up, we took advantage of it," Collison said.

"When they did take some unnecessary shots, we took advantage of it and got the rebound and got easy transition points. It's not that hard to speed them up, and I think that was the key for us."

All the Ducks mustered between Bryce Taylor's bucket with 10:53 to play and Maarty Leunen's 3-pointer with 2:38 left were four free throws.
While lot of folks will be looking at our second half defensive lockdown, I think it is important to note that our defense tightened up considerably during the closing mins of first half (until Porter made that last second 3 pt shot).

The Ducks came out on fire in first half. They were unconscious early on as Porter, Leunen, and even some guy named Drew Vinney were connecting on their 3 pt. bombs. And our interior defense was a little slow. But Coach Howland then inserted Mata-Real in the first half, who changed our defensive complexion of the game, and stopped the bleeding in terms of easy buckets in the paint.

Now as Pucin reported above Love might have been under the weather yesterday (and last two weeks). So its understandable if he wasn't fast on his defensive rotations in the first half. However, the kid gutted it out in the closing mins of the second half, especially after Coach Howland had a chat with him during one of the timeouts. I am not sure how many of you noticed but during the last timeout before Love was inserted during the decisive second half run, camera showed Howland sitting next to Love. It appeared that he was saying some encouraging words and ended that session with a pat on the kid's back. Love came back and was completely locked in from there on. He was nothing like the tentative and lethargic player we had seen till that point of the game.

Going back to our defense, we have heard some murmurs about how our defense has not been playing at the top level this season. Well here are some numbers from OC Register's Robert Kuwada:
The 15 steals by the Bruins equaled their season high and gives them 204 in 27 games, which is more than they had all of 2007 (184), '05 (181), '04 (176), '03 (187) and '02 (187) and as many as they had in 39 games in 2006.

UCLA also is allowing an average of just 57.9 points per game, fewer than its Final Four teams from 2006 and '07. If it maintains that pace it will post its lowest points-per-game average since 1950.

And while the Bruins rank just fifth in the Pac-10 in field-goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to hit 42.1 percent of their shots, that number still is lower than it has been in seven of the past eight seasons.
Pretty good stuff.

Now as good as we all feel about yesterday's big win, here is an issue that is still bugging me a little.

No it's not our 3 point shooting. What's bugging me is that I'd like to see a little more decisiveness out of Darren Collison. To me it seems like our offense slows down a little, when DC starts over dribbling a bit. We saw a bit of that during the game against Southern Cal. I think what we need is DC to be more assure of himself and his team-mates, and attack the basket. He needs to attack the basket and then make the decision whether he is going to finish his drive or dish it off to another team-mate as the defender are collapsing on him.

And this takes me to his 3 point shooting. DC is a solid 3 point shooter. He is shooting 43% this season, following up on his 45% shooting from last season. There were couple of moments yesterday when DC passed up 3 point shot because he wanted to be unselfish or run the clock a little more.

Perhaps we can have RW play the 1 a little more and shift DC over to the 2, getting him set up with more 3 pt opportunities? Just a thought.

I was going to worry about our FT shooting. But most of our misses came from Love. And I imagine it could be something to do with feeling fatigued from being sick? Either way, I imagine this is something Love will work on and get back to his 75% shooting clip in the coming weeks. We can hope.

Also speaking of things that are bugging me, I hope Dan Guerrero has a chat with Pauley's floor staff/maintenance crew today or this week. Yesterday we saw RW and JS take scary falls. Last time out it was Luc who also went down in the same end of the court. Whoever is in charge of keeping that end of the floor dry needs to do a better job. Because that was kind of inexcusable IMHO. Not good at all.

Lastly, let's end our Sunday roundup with this from Coach Howland (from the OC Register article linked above, emphasis added):
"I'm so happy for Russell because Russell is just all about his team and his teammates and he's such a great kid," Coach Ben Howland said. "I'm sure he'll love to have another YouTube highlight."
Ask and you shall receive Coach (thanks again to ewcorpuz):

LET"S GO!!!!!