Brace yourself for more UCLA hate today and leading up to the Xavier game tomorrow (3:40 pm PST and countdown is up). Last night’s game should effectively shred (to anyone with an ounce of intellectual honesty) the MSM fueled narrative about UCLA getting all the calls. So expect Bobby Knight, Digger Phelps, Hubert Davis and rest of the haters on WWL and MSM to jump into the new narrative of how UCLA is a "vulnerable" team and its just a matter of time Sean Miller and his Xavier Musketeers (more on those guys later today) dispatch our warriors tomorrow.
Well that is fine with me. I would never want hacks like Dennis Dodd (sorry I am not going to dignify his latest smear piece with a link) who has a history of writing anti-UCLA/Howland incendiary articles on our band wagon any way. I wouldn’t also want jokesters like T J Simmers, who gets off on having an inbox filled up with angry emails from fans rooting and appreciating our boys who game after game have battled through injury, adversity and doubters to put together yet another remarkable season under the leadership of Coach Howland.
Once again it all started with our DEFENSE. It was our defense which ignited a stellar start which eventually ended up providing a cushion (even though the margin became scary slim) for Howland’s 3rd straight victory in a Sweet-16 game. Steve Dilbeck from the Daily News appreciated the significance of our ferocious defensive start:
The UCLA defense was easy to overlook, almost forgotten by the Western Kentucky comeback and inside domination of Love and Shipp finding his shooting touch in the clutch and Keefe suddenly playing like a McDonald's All-American.
Not very sexy, defense, not the stuff kids normally dream of when envisioning their college basketball careers.
But it makes a difference. Defense and rebounding are the boring foundation of winning teams. Why the Bruins have a chance every night, even when their offense is not at its best.
The Bruins might have subconsciously thought they had Thursday's game won at halftime, their play suddenly lacking the crispness of the first half.
They knew as well as anyone, no No. 12 seed like the Hilltoppers had ever beaten a No. 1 seed like the Bruins.
Western Kentucky made a nice run at it, had UCLA living on the edge again.
No doubt left UCLA's detractors - Bobby Knight and his ilk - with more fodder for doubting the true quality of the Bruins.
Defense wins, though. And this could prove Howland's finest UCLA defensive team.
Our defense was especially impressive in light of the circumstances in which the referees were intent on "making up" for their colleague’s past officiating of UCLA games in front of the national tv audience. There is really no other way to explain calling 4 touch fouls on DC in a matter of 8 mins. Again if anyone has any shred of intellectual honesty he or she should think twice about pushing any kind of argument about a pro UCLA conspiracy in the NCAA. Well TJ went there this am, but as mentioned above he is a jokester who makes a living by getting a rise out of people. So you can’t really take his opinion on sports seriously.
In addition to our superlative defensive effort which ended up being the difference maker in last night’s victory, Kevin Love once again showed why he is the POY of not just the Pac-10 or teams from west of the Mississippi, but of the entire nation.
I don’t have any more superlatives to add in commenting on KL’s night. I just found it amazing that when there was a sense of trouble with the Toppers closing within 4, it was KL installing that sense of calm, taking on the role of press breaker, hauling in offensive boards, swatting away shots, willing us to win as a true freaking freshman. Simply amazing. And this is not a knock on kids like JS, LRMAM or RW who did their part to preserve that win, but KL’s leadership and willpower is just abnormal (in a spectacularly pleasant way from BN perspective of course). And it was KL who spoke out about how the early second half performance was not "acceptable" despite his stellar effort through the entire game:
"It was a little sad. When we're up 21 points and they come back to four points, it's unacceptable."
And, good gravy, how about four blocked shots, a total that matched his celebrated teammate Love and also equaled the number Western Kentucky managed as a team.
In the first half, Keefe blocked a shot in the lane by A.J. Slaughter. Then he ran out at Ty Rogers, whose attempt at a three-pointer instead was an air ball. Then he blocked Courtney Lee’s driving layup.
And all that happened within 90 seconds.
Keefe’s contributions were stunning and oh so vital on a night when Russell Westbrook shot 3 for 15, when fouls limited Collison to four points and 28 minutes and when the Bruins had 51 rebounds to the Hilltoppers’ 36.
Keefe's previous career high in points was eight, which he scored against Stanford in the Pacific-10 Conference title game. His career high for rebounds was seven.
Keefe, who missed the first two months of the season because of a shoulder injury, scored almost all his points off offensive rebounds and layups in transition, and it came after some well-timed film sessions with assistant coach Donny Daniels.
"I watched film with (Daniels) and he was pointing out how many times I didn't go to the glass," said Keefe, who was 7 of 9 from the field. "He was pointing out that I had to go to the glass. He really put it in my head. This game really shows that it works."
"Sometimes when it hurts, I feel like I should come out, but then we have a timeout and it feels better. But there's nothing I can do.
So speaking of being a little out of sync that brings me to our backcourt. Dohn reports how DC took full responsibility for the early second half let down:
"I don't think we've ever seen a press like that," Collison said. "It wasn't an organized pressure. It was the fact they were running from all types of angles. They threw different things at us, and we didn't do a good job of handling it and we didn't get settled down.
"I take full responsibility. Not half. Not 75 percent. It's my team and I'm supposed to be leading them in the right direction."
And I have to LOL a little to hear smattering of how our guards are vulnerable to press. If that’s what they think the key is to beat our guys, I think our guys will be more than ready for that challenge.
Anyway at this point we don’t have much time to dwell on last night’s victory. I am confident our guys will take the early part of last night’s second half and use that pivot and focus for our Saturday’s game against another outstanding opponent. You can bet the Xavier Musketeers will be primed and ready fueled by the UCLA hate in the MSM and be backed by the rest of the country. We will do our part, stand with our teams here in Bruin Nation, as our Ben Ball warriors get to take on the latest darlings of the WWL.
Our coach. Our warriors. Our TEAM. What’s that saying?
Photo Credit: dbruin's photostream (flickr)
March is a brotherhood.
On to the Musketeers.