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Ben Ball News & Notes

We will start the tournament week by taking a look at another shot of LMR’s last entrance at Pauley:

Photo Credit: Jack Rosenfeld

And let's follow that by watching another angle of his last (immediate post game) celebration in the Cathedral:

Photo Credit: Jack Rosenfeld

You can check out more of Jack's work on LMR's Senior Day by going here.

Now despite all the excitement from last week our players know that they haven’t been playing great basketball this past week. Yes, its testament to the will and tenacity of this team that they can find a way to scrap, claw, and eek out victories under difficult circumstances, however, if they want to advance deep into the tournament, they know they can’t resort to the same routine in the coming week. From the LA Times:

UCLA players said their excitement over making big second-half comebacks to beat Stanford and California was tempered by their realization that needing to make those comebacks is a dangerous way to live in the postseason.

"We're a lot more humble," Collison said. "For the last two games, we didn't come out at the start nearly as well. Coming back shows we don't have any quit in us. But we can't have those games now.

"It's just something about this team. We know what the stakes are, and we play better when the stakes are high."

"When we come out too excited I don't think we play that well," junior Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "We let our emotions take over, and every time we come out too excited we start out flat. Against Stanford, we were so excited to be playing for the [conference] championship we came out flat. Against Cal, it was senior night, we came out flat. That's something we have to work on."

And Kevin Love apologized for any trauma the team has foisted on Coach Ben Howland.

"I will say this," Love said. "I think we aged Coach Howland about 10 years over these last two games. We can't keep doing that to ourselves, getting down like that."
More from Love re having a sense of urgency (in the Daily News):
`'We need to have a sense of urgency from the get-go," UCLA freshman center Kevin Love said. "We can't be playing from behind. Eventually, somebody is going to push us to 15 or 18 points, and we're not going to be able to come back from that.

"You can't have the Gonzaga game from two or three years ago, you know, because that's a miracle. That only happens once in a million games. That's not going to happen again. We have to jump out on teams and really get it going."
Well the key to jumping on our opponents will be playing our patented defense. As I mentioned yesterday our defense was absolutely atrocious on Saturday. Cal without Hardin shot 56% from the floor. As Bruin Basketball Report noted in its post game wrap perhaps it was Cal’s quicker lineup that allowed Braun to spread the floor and completely neutralize our double teams.
Cal's spread offense, like Texas and USC, was effective against UCLA's aggressive trapping defense. The Bears shot 65% in the second half and 56% field goal shooting for the game. No doubt NCAA tourney teams will be watching tape to find what has been used effectively against the Bruin defense and try to exploit it during postseason play.
What was disconcerting was to see our interior defense not being very aggressive and frankly slow in its rotation (we are looking at you Kevin Love).

The defense also came out lethargic against Stanford as well. Although we ended up bottling up the Cardinal in the second half those guys came out on fire in the first few mins of the first half and caught our defense flat footed. We simply cannot let that happen in the Big Dance.

Apparently Coach Howland gave the team Sunday off and today off as well. Hopefully the rest will pay off for our guys (I imagine they also need the time to get reading for finals that are looming in the coming weeks). Let’s hope they can come out and take care of business on Thursday, which will pretty much clinch the top seed out West. From there on they should approach rest of the Pac-10 tourney with nothing to lose.