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Finding A Way ...

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So much for our Ben Ball warriors having an "easy" bracket.

Before yesterday's game we kept imploring folks here on BN (many who weren't here with us in last three years) to latch on the cliché of "one game at a time," and not look beyond our next opponent. Not sure how much more we need to say to reemphasize that point after last night's game. Ben Ball warriors escaped with a win in an expected street fight against the toughest of the 8th and 9th seeds in this tournament (A&M was ranked number 16 according to Kenpom.com). There was nothing easy about yesterday.

First, let's take a look at some of the key numbers from yesterdays' game courtesy of Richard Perelman over at What's Bruin:

>> Kevin Love, Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook scored all but two of UCLA's 27 second-half points. Josh Shipp was scoreless (0-4 from the field) for the first time this season and only the third time in his UCLA career. He had two scoreless games as a freshman in the 2004-05 season.

>> Collison hit 5-8 from three-point land to equal his career high set at Arizona State and against Cal in the Pac-10 Tournament.

>> Love had a career-high seven blocked shots tonight as well as his 21st double-double of the season, with 19 points and 11 rebounds.

>> Defense: The Bruins held Texas A&M to just 32% shooting in the second half at 8-25 after a 14-26 (53.8%) first half; for the game, the Aggies shot 39.2% at 22-51.

>> Offense: After a dreadful, 9-23 first half (39.1%), the Bruins shot 11-22 in the second half and 20-45 for the game (44.4%).

>> UCLA got down by 10 points during the game, but now has a remarkable 5-2 record in games in which it is down by 10 or more. The Bruins also are 8-2 this season in games in which they have trailed at halftime.
Once again our boys got it done. And it was our defense that jump started our offense. The game was basically a replay of last year's contest in Anaheim during which our guys forced turnovers to eek out a 3 point win. More defensive superlative numbers from Perelman:
>> Texas A&M had 11 turnovers tonight; that gives UCLA a streak of 17 straight games in which its opponent has 10 or more turnovers.

>> This was the 20th game this season in which UCLA held its opponent to less than 60 points; the Bruins are 20-0 in those games. In the Ben Howland era (fifth season), UCLA is 62-2 in such games and has won 59 in a row.
And before moving on here is Perelman on significance of last night's 33rd win:
>> The Bruins set a school record tonight with their 33rd win of the season; UCLA is now 33-3, surpassing the win total of the 1995 and 2005 teams. The Bruins can't have more than four losses this season, so this season's overall record will be the best since the 1995 championship squad (32-1).

>> The Bruins are 8-0 so far this March, and have a March record of 22-3 over the last three seasons.  Howland has a March record of 24-8 in his five season as UCLA's head coach. He also has a 15-6 NCAA Tournament record as a head coach and 11-3 at UCLA
Obviously there will be some who will find something to get upset over last night's close win. People are going to worry about how no one besides KL and DC really stepped up. People are going to worry about how Shipp went scoreless for the first time since his freshman year on a day when Plaschke decided to call him out personally in the Trojan Times.

But really is all that worrying really worth it? Why not just appreciate the fact that got it done against a very talented A&M team, which has a deep and extremely athletic frontline and a very good coach, who drilled his team into one of better defensive oriented in squads in America. Why not just appreciate the fact that once again our boys got it done when two of our key offensive weapons (RW and JS) were well contained by the Aggies and another one still working on his way back from a tough ankle injury. I am not sure how many other elite teams in America would have held their composure, work through the adversity, maintain their poise in the clutch to just get it done.

Well two of the reasons we keep pulling off these wins ala number 16 are our nos. 2 and 42. From SI.com:
Kevin Love and Darren Collison came of age on Saturday. In a slow-paced game against Texas A&M, UCLA's 10-point second-half deficit felt more like 18. But this UCLA team never, ever panics, and Love (seven blocks, 19 points, 11 boards) and Collison (21 points, five treys) showed as much poise as John Wooden's greatest teams always had down the stretch for the Bruins. Make no mistake: Love and Collison are the emotional center of a UCLA team that sometimes struggles to put away its opponents but always seems to perform when it counts. Did you ever think the Bruins would lose this game? Me neither. (But who knew the ground-bound Love would turn into a shot-swatting monster?)
Well may be not many were expecting Love turn into shot blocking "monster," but for those of us in BN who have been following his move ever since he committed to bleed blue and gold, last night's clutch performance was not a surprise. That was the same kid who carried us to a win in Oregon in circumstances as tough as a college basketball team will ever find itself in. And that was the same kid who time and again stepped up throughout the conference season establishing himself as the best in the premiere league in America.  From Dilbeck in the Daily News:
He seemed to understand the moment again beyond his years, from taking control to urging on the crowd.

"I just wanted to get the crowd on our side," Love said. "I wanted to get the momentum going for us.

"Basketball's an emotional game, whether you like to show it or not. I was very much into it. I think I flexed so much my muscles kind of hurt after this."

For now, he'll settle for putting a hurt on the NCAA Tournament. Two games in, and he is making his mark.
Well the kid who made his mark was breathing a sigh of relief after yesterday's heart palpitating action:
"I'd be lying to you if I told you there was a big sigh of relief. We got it done today, that's all that counts, we got the `W' up on the scoreboard."

>> Asked about being down most of the game, Love said, "I just had to grind it out myself. Darren [Collison] didn't get disoriented at all and really our team didn't. We were a little quiet at halftime coming into the locker room, but Coach Howland picked us back up, and, [in] the last 10 minutes of the game, I really felt like we set up our defense and we ground out that win.

"I don't know if it was doubt [in our minds]. We just had to get ourselves believing in ourselves again. We had a couple guys who were going O-fer from the three-point line. We need to set that up as well. Darren shot great throughout the whole game and we really executed in the second half, especially on defense. We had to get out on their ball screens; we had to out-tough them. I thought we did that."

>> On the end-of-the-game stretch in which he and Collison gave the Bruins the lead: "Great players step up in clutch situations, and the ball just happened to be in our hands down the stretch. If it was somebody else on our team, I think they could have stepped up as well. We were just in the right place at the right time. Darren took it in on two good layups in the lane and I set some good screens for him ... He came off steamrolling down the middle, and I hit some fade-aways that aren't usually my go-to moves inside, but I just happened to hit them.
The `steam roller' stayed focused, was in total control, and "knew we were going to win":
"There's still a ballgame to be played. Once that buzzer goes zero-zero or the time clock goes zero-zero, then that's when we'll stop playing. I mean, we've been through that all season. We've been through adversity ever since I've been here, especially in the tournament. There's no quit in us. We had some games coming into the tournament where we've been down early, but we stay focused. We knew what we had to do. We knew we were going to win. Like Coach Howland said, we just had to do the right things to win the game.

>> On the final plays of the game and whether he was looking for himself or Love, he noted, "The plays are designed for us, so we had to create, whether it was me on the ball screens, creating for myself or my teammates or Kevin getting it down low. We just took advantage of it."
And then you go. With that our Ben Ball warriors get to move and prepare for the Hilltoppers on Thursday night.

Again I am not going to waste any space in this post talking about JS. I think everyone has said enough. We get the fact people are concerned. But I am not sure we have to spell if there is anyone who is most determined to break out of this slip and help the team its none other than Shipp. And the person that is most determined to help JS through his slum is none other than Coach Howland. So while Plaschkes of the world take their cheap shots, I'd appreciate if people here lay off him, and let his coach, his team-mates, help him work through his game. Meanwhile, the kid is doing everything he can while his shot is not falling to help us win the game. And guess what he is doing what he can to get it done:


AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian (via ESPN)

For more on the game here is coverage from the Daily News, the OC Register, and the LA Times:
"The thing I love about our team is that they know in their heart they're always going to win the game," Howland said. "They're going to find a way."
Again we will go through the same drill on Thursday. And when it comes to Ben Ball everyone here on BN should think about nothing else except for how we are going to "find a way" again WKU on Thursday night.

GO BRUINS.