What is the mark of a great team?
Let's see Stanford and UCLA played an epic game on Thursday night with the Pac-10 championship on the line. Both teams were probably emotionally and physically exhausted after that OT thriller. So in my book it was understandable if both teams came out a little sluggish in their following games again inferior opponents with not much on the line (I'd argue even if we lost yesterday we would be in position to make a run in the Pac-10 for a number 1 seed out West or at the very least at this point we have a number 2 seed all wrapped up (in the worst case scenario) out West). So Stanford comes out, takes it in the chin, but couldn't must much to fight back and salvage a split on the road.
As for our Ben Ball warriors ... you saw what happened:
Photo Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times
Down 49-60 with less than 10 mins to go our Ben Ball warriors once against went Joe Montana on all of us.
Thanks to Telemachus and Achilles for key posts today that have already undercut the whining coming from different corners of the country (more on that below). But let's here from the two heroes from our closing seconds - KL and JS - whose two incredible shots clinched another epic comeback.
Here is Kevin re his double clutch three pointer:
"I've been confident, my shots just haven't been going in," Shipp said. "As a player, you want the ball in your hands at the last second. Fortunately, they found me, and I was able to get the shot off."
I will tell you right now everyone here should ignore the invectives that are being hurled towards our program from certain areas of the college basketball world. Consider the source of all the hate and whining.
Some of it is coming from fans of certain programs who choked away their chances at the number 1 seed when they had the opportunity to control their destiny. While programs like Texas was choking away their opportunity to seal their bid for number 1 by getting its ass kicked by a team "coached" by Patrick Knight, our guys went on the road and swept tough games against Arizona schools (fighting for their tourney lives) and then came back home to beat up a hot Stanford team (which BTW got more than its share of calls against Washington State at Maples just the week before) and loosy-goosy ultra-talented UCB team, which had nothing to lose. I mean its comical to hear Texas fans whine about 50-50 calls at Pauley, considering they were the biggest beneficiary of a 50-50 noncall at Pauley in their game winning shot against us few months ago. Whatever.
As for whining from losers like Gottlieb. Consider the source. This is a kid from Southern California (who never got a real whiff from UCLA). And yeah he got to Oklahoma State after getting busted at Notre Dame for (allegedly) stealing credit card. This loser was a hack as a player and he is worse as a "commentator." I mean from what we have read this guy is literally a criminal. But this is not a surprise from a network which employs a clown like Steve Lavin (who still probably can't differentiate between a zone and man-to-man defense) as a basketball "expert."
The fact is the hatred we are seeing towards our program is just the beginning. There is going to be lot more of this as Coach Howland continues to cement us as the unrivaled basketball superpower out West, carving our place as one of the best if not the best program in America. There is a reason Jay Bilas is sticking up for us. Because as a Duke player and graduate he knows full well what we are going through. Duke obviously has been subjected to the same treatment during last two decades and now that we are making our move in reclaiming our status as the Yankees of College Basketball, we will once again have to deal with the cheap shots coming from jealous and bitter sources. I have no problem with that ... it only means to me that Coach Howland is doing it right.
Going back to the game ... I only got to see the last 12 mins of the game. Obviously we are all basking in the glory of another Howlandian comeback. But there are of course some issues of concern:
The problem I saw in yesterday's game was not on the offensive end (then again I didn't get to the see the first half). But from what I saw the disconcerting part for me was watching our interior defense get shredded by the UCB frontcourt. There were just too many easy penetrations and easy looks for the UCB forwards. I was disappointed with the effort of our front court in terms of defense. Again may be that was a case of our guys having let down after the Stanford game.
Also re. our 3 pt shooting I still think everyone is putting too much pressure on JS as our "designated" shooter. The more I see DC shooting the 3, the more convinced I get that perhaps Coach Howland should consider switching up RW at 1 and DC at 2 to create more opportunities for DC to launch bombs, alleviating the pressure (or I should say perceived pressure) on JS.
Anyways, whatever it was yesterday I hope the effort is different this Thursday night in our first game of the Pac-10.
Speaking of the tournament, at this point all I care from this event is getting the on Thursday night. I think if we get the win on Thursday night, we should go into the following games in that tournament as having nothing to lose. I would sit LRMAM out for those games giving his ankle a rest and start AA2. I would also give heavy mins to Stanback giving our backcourt much needed rest. And no I wouldn't care if this means a stumble against Southern Cal in a possible second round matchup. That game would mean nothing to me if extra rest for our starters in that game translates into dividend in the Big Dance. We need to keep our eyes on the real prize not on some Gauntlet prize, that doesn't mean much in the overall scheme of things.
So once again congrats to Coach Howland and his program for winning the regular season Pac-10 championship for the 3rd straight year and putting together UCLA's best regular season conference record since 1994-95. Given the burden of expectations going into this season and all the injuries they have had to battle through, in my book this was nothing short of a remarkable accomplishment. And no matter how much whining and hating we read and hear from certain parts of the country and a bitter, cynical, lazy, clueless, Bruin hating local traditional media, we are not going to let anyone diminish what our guys have accomplished this season.
After the agony, pain, frustrations, and humiliations from those dark, disgusting Lavin years watching this celebration unfold in front of the poser masquerading as a basketball commentator (whining about a controversial call) was even sweeter:
Photo Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times
We so deserve this.
Let others keep up the whining ... while here on BN we will keep on enjoying the winning.