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No Time To Let Up

Before we get to last night's festivities at Pauley, let's start with status of Luc. Because for all the delirium we were collectively experiencing during the three hour UCLA commercial on WWL, that was all gone (at least for me) for the few mins Luc was on the ground clutching his ankle. From the LA Times:

Mbah a Moute ended up leaving the court on crutches after rolling his left ankle late. The preliminary diagnosis was a sprain and no fracture but so convincing was UCLA's victory that no one was downcast about yet another injury.

"Luc will be back, don't worry," said Westbrook, who finished with a career-high 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
Crossing my fingers and hoping RW is right. Also from Coach Howland in the DN:
UCLA's chief concern afterward, though, was the health of power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who sprained his ankle late in the second half and needed crutches to get to the locker room. X-rays were negative and he is questionable for Thursday's game at Washington State.

"He tried to make a cut and it twisted," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "And he rolled it."
Hopefully Luc is going to rest up for couple of days and be ready to go on Thursday night. Because we are going to need him against a desperate WSU team which will be looking to avoid a three game losing streak on their home court.

As for the game here is Dohn's capsule on yet another complete performance from our Ben Ball warriors:
UCLA played its typical tight defense, holding the Wildcats (15-7, 5-4) to 32 percent from the field in the first half.

Jerryd Bayless, who was averaging 19.3 points a game, was held to 13 on 4-of-9 shooting. Chase Budinger scored nine points, 9.2fewer than his average.

"When everybody's healthy and we're in a rhythm, it's really hard to beat us," Collison said. "And the chemistry is good, not just on the court, but off the court."

What separated these Bruins from the performances in the past two wins was their offensive efficiency. UCLA shot 57.1 percent from the field against the Wildcats, after shooting a season-high 58.5 percent against the Sun Devils.

Love and Westbrook went a combined 19 for 25 from the field against Arizona, and even though UCLA didn't shoot the 3-pointer well (2 of 10), its ability to score in transition - via offensive rebounds - by getting the ball to Love in the post and by making the extra pass for open jumpers made for an incredibly simple win.

"Right now we're very good, but I think we can be great," Love said. "It takes a few games like this to understand how good we can actually be."
Well once again it all started with our defense. As Bilas pointed out repeatedly during last night's ESPN broadcast (more on that below) our warriors dismantled the Wildcats with their ferocious on ball defense. It was spearheaded by DC and RW (with some great help from Josh Shipp). They completely flustered and ripped apart the Zona backcourt of Bayless, McClellan, and Wise by not allowing them to get into any kind of rhythm.  DC et al didn't give the other guys any space or breathing room, who cannot get anything started on their offense as they had backs turned towards the hoops, and were reduced to haplessly starting their offense from way out in the perimeter.

Arizona did try to make some adjustments in second half as they were able to drive to the hoops few times and get some lay ups. But by that time it was too little too late.

More on our defensive effort from Pucin in the LA Times. Needless to say Coach Howland liked what he saw for the second straight game (from LAT article linked above):
"I thought our defense in the first half was outstanding," he said. "Shipp did a great job of help defense on the weak side. Luc did a great job defensively on Budinger. Kevin had an unbelievable game and his teammates did a great job of feeding him the ball.

"Darren had another big-time game. Seven assists, one turnover." And for the weekend, Howland tallied up Collison's total -- 16 assists, two turnovers. "We like that," Howland said.
It was amusing to see O'Neil burn through his TO's in the first half as his much hyped defense didn't have any answer for our efficiency in offensive execution. Whatever Zona was throwing up was not sticking, as DC/RW were attacking inside creating options for themselves and their team-mates:

Photo Credit: Jack Rosenfeld

While Love was ravaging the Cats "interior defense" in the paint.

Photo Credit:Richard Hartog/LA Times

It was beautiful to watch which was made more enjoyable by the total unselfish play of every single member of the team. Again from the LAT:
"Everybody is playing unselfishly," Shipp said. "Everyone is looking to make the right plays at the right time."

Shipp even held his temper when Budinger checked him hard on his way to the basket on a fastbreak with 6:22 left. An intentional foul was called and Shipp gave Budinger an angry stare. "Unnecessary," Shipp said of the hard foul. "That's all I'll say. We have them one more time. It is what it is."
I am not going to waste any more space in this post talking about Budinger. Josh covered that topic pretty well.

I also want to note that here on BN we always take shots at WWL. For many reasons we have articulated over the years we have dubbed them as the Eastern Sports Programming Network. However, that said I have to say I was extremely impressed with ESPN's production of last night's show. The commentary was excellent. And their production made the FSN broadcast that we are used to during rest of the season look high schoolish in quality. Last night's broadcast reminded me one more time the incompetent job Tom Hansen has done as the commissioner of our conference in his failure to secure TV contract packages that would be optimize the exposure of our program and the conference to rest of the country.

Anyway going back to our team we still have ways to go. As good as our on ball defense was in the first half, we relaxed a bit in the second half, when our containment sagged off a bit when we allowed a number of lay-ups and easy drive to the hoops. We can't allow that Thursday night against guards like Lowe, Rochestie and Weaver.

Let's hope Luc feels better. Having him in our line up is a huge key to our defense. Also Luc's injury reminded why it is so important for Keefe to get important mins and Mata-Real to get back in the groove. Both of them did well in their appearance against the Wildcat front court.

We will need all of our guys to keep improving. It's obvious that they are getting back in form since the let down against Southern Cal. However, they cannot afford to feel too good about themselves reading the press clips. Otherwise we will end up stumbling in what as anticipated has shaped up to be the most grueling conference in the game. This Thursday night is going to be another dog fight. We will need to come out with the same mindset we have come out with in last four games. No time to let up.