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Refuse To Lose: Feeling Much Better

Now that I had the chance to sleep on last night's game I feel a little better. Actually much better. The more I think of it I think many of us here felt that initial sense of shock and doom & gloom as we were watching LRMAM crumpled on the floor, writhing in pain, and almost on verge of tears. As Mrs. N and yours truly were watching we felt like it was our little brother hurting on the floor. It wasn't fun. And may be that's why we were feeling so depressed which wasn't alleviated by another incredibly resilient performance by our Ben Ball warriors.

But I am feeling better after reading this from Luc in the LA Times:

On Feb. 2, Mbah a Moute had sprained the same ankle against Arizona. He missed games against Washington State and Washington and only last weekend said he felt spring back in his legs.

"This time the pain was so bad I thought I broke it," Mbah a Moute said.

Halftime x-rays were negative and after the game, with his foot stuck in a bucket of ice, Mbah a Moute was smiling. "Now it feels better than the last time I sprained it," he said.
And also in the OC Register:
Mbah a Moute, Coach Ben Howland said, will not play. X-rays on the ankle did not show a break, but the severity of the injury and his availability for the NCAA Tournament next week was not yet known. He was on crutches immediately after the game.

"It was just very painful. I've never felt so much pain, especially from a sprained ankle. I thought I broke it or something," said Mbah a Moute, who appeared to come down on the foot of the Trojans' Davon Jefferson. "When I got to the locker room, (the swelling) started to go down and now it definitely feels better, so that's a good sign."
Well no one was feeling good when the Prince was lying on the floor. Here is KL in the Daily News:
"Our team, our overall emotions, we just sulked and went down and our body language all went down because he's a big player for us," UCLA freshman center Kevin Love said of Mbah a Moute's injury. "He may not put up the biggest stats, but he offensive rebounds and helps me out a lot. Sometimes he guards the best big man, so it was tough having him go down."
And it didn't help when freaking Keith Wilkinson knocked down back to back 3 pointers. I don't think at that point any body was thinking about the game as everyone was thinking about Luc's health. But DC ended the first half in a buzzer beater and then Coach Howland once again took command. Again from the DN:
Sensing what was happening, UCLA coach Ben Howland shouted, "Hey, let's play basketball."

Those words served little purpose initially as USC proceeded to build an eight-point lead, but Howland's halftime message to the Bruins was received much better.
Well Coach Howland did lot more than delivering his inspiring (and effective message). He also made some shrewd tactical adjustments. As we have been pleading here on BN he switched RW over to 1 and decided to give JK the bulk of the mins in replacement of LRMAM.  And both moves worked masterfully.

RW was more aggressive at 1 and directly attacked the Trojan D while setting up his team-mates. Meanwhile, JK was just relentless around the boards. He also was extremely effectively in helping get more crisp ball movement going and create more spacing for KL to neutralize Floyd's triangle and two.

Not only JK even Dragovic was effective in 2 mins of action he got in the second half hauling down an offensive board and scrapping on the floor.

I don' think I have to add anything more about KL. I think last night's performance spoke for itself.  I do have note about DC's focus. Here is DC on his two FTs with game on the line and a one point lead (OC Register):
Collison had been poked in the left eye moments earlier and his vision was blurred, but he stepped up to the line and hit both free throws.

"I saw like three (rims)," Collison said. "I just followed my free-throw rules -- keep the ball up, follow through, stay focused, like I have been doing all year and hopefully, they fall in."

DC was so much more aggressive in the second half. I thought he should have been looking to shoot more early in the first half. But switching RW over to 1 seemed to free up DC and allow him to be more aggressive with his shots.

Before closing this post I think we should all take note of this:

Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / LAT

What the heck is that song girl doing in that picture? Anyway, we have to tip our hats to Mayo and Hackett for that gesture. They sprinted back to the other end of the court as soon as they realized LRMAM was down. That was pure class. And maybe it won't turn out to be an aberration. There is still many things that are wrong with Floyd and how he has built that program on house of cards based on recruiting athletes with questionable academic backgrounds (and I am being charitable here). But at least for that one moment we saw sign of class from that institution, which to this date is marked (in this Nation) by what Marinovich did to Matt Darby. So props to OJ and Hackett.

Anyway, the more I think of it this am, the more I am appreciative of what our boys did last night, refusing to give an inch even during the most dire of circumstances. I think given the news on Luc and the courage we saw from our coaches and players, we are going to be in a pretty good frame of mine heading against Stanford tonight. More on that game in a post to follow shortly.