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Developing Warriors: Another Character Building Win

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During last four years one factor that has been consistent for Coach Howland in Westwood is that he has had a consistent stopper to super charge his defense via AA and RW. All this year Howland had been talking about how he was hoping JH would step into that role this year. Looks like the coach’s wish finally came true last night, when JH went up to Howland and volunteered to LOCK DOWN Derozan. From the Daily News:

Holiday went to Bruins coach Ben Howland and asked to defend DeRozan. Howland acquiesced, and the 6-foot-7 DeRozan scored four points in the ensuing 26 minutes.

While there were plenty of superlatives for No. 10 UCLA in its 64-60 defeat of the Trojans on Sunday in front of 10,258 at a sold out Galen Center, Holiday's defense against DeRozan stood out to Howland.

"I think Jrue really took it personally," Howland said about the former Campbell Hall of North Hollywood standout.

"Jrue came over and said, 'I want him.' He wanted him, and I was happy to oblige. I liked that because that told me he was going to take it personally, and he did."

Holiday, who is 6-3, said he was familiar with DeRozan's game from the AAU circuit, and from watching how the fellow freshman was beating Bruins senior Josh Shipp in the first half.

"He kept on driving right and knocking down the jump shot," Holiday said about DeRozan.

"He has great athletic ability. You saw how high he gets on his jump shot. I kinda wanted to stop him from driving, and make him go the opposite way that he's used to going."

Holiday's defense wasn't his only contribution in UCLA's ninth straight win. He scored 13 points, including a pretty, high difficulty and high-banking lefty shot off the backboard with 4:28 to play as the Bruins (13-2, 3-0 Pacific-10 Conference) went ahead for good 55-53.

There were some good discussions in our post game thread re. who was the POTG last night. I think JH made the best case for it. No doubt his defense was clutch in the closing part of the second half and he showed no fear on offense as he drove right at Taj Gibson. But I also think he set the tone early with his two long bombs, that helped our Ben Ball warriors get off to a fast start. He is clearly on his way into developing as a prototype Ben Ball warriors.

Yet JH didn’t the win game by himself. He was taking his cue from his senior floor general who once again showed last night why he is perhaps the best pg America. DC was clutch down the stretch. When the Bruins fell behind by 5 points in the second half and the entire Costco Center was showing a little sign of life for the first (and perhaps the only time) during this basketball season, DC took command of the team. We all know about his clutch shooting from the FT line and the remarkable consistency he is showing from the perimeter. But here is another stat to chew on during this conference season. Since the Pac-10 season has started DC has an assist to TO ratio of 19 to 3. That is freaking amazing. I think DC (and JH) could have had more assists last night if our guys did a better job of finishing inside. I was a little disappointed at the way our bigs were not finishing inside when Gibson went out with his 3rd foul early in the first half.

In addition to DC, ND and JS had clutch games in the second half. ND is still taking way too many shots for my liking. Even though he scored a career high 14 points, he took 13 shots (DC and JH were second with 9 each), 9 of which came from behind the 3 point line. I still think ND needs to be a little more selective from the long range. Still I was very impressed with what I saw from him in the second half. He showed no fear. He was aggressive and he went after it. His team-mates were feeding off his energy. I also got the sense that as he got confidence from going inside, it was making him a little more comfortable with his outside game. Anyway, it was a big night for ND and hopefully we will lot more of this from him in the coming weeks.

Same thing with JS. JS had a very tough start. As mentioned above he was getting torched on defense by Derozan early in the first half and got himself in foul trouble. But just like JS has done so many times over his Bruin career, he stepped up in the second half. He connected on a key 3 pt bomb that brought us back in the game and found a way to get himself to the FT line.

Speaking of showing no fear, I though DG in his limited mins had a pretty good game. He defended well and most importantly he didn’t lose his cool when Hackett was trying to draw him into getting a technical. The papers this am has more on that shenanigan with some unbelievable quotes from Hackett. First, here is DG on the inadvertent clip:

"I backed up to turn and like walk away, and I guess I hit him accidentally," Gordon said. "I mean I put my arms up before to show I'm not trying to do anything. . . . It was completely accidental. Hopefully the fans don't hate me for it."

Referees reviewed the tape during the timeout, but made no call.

The refs took their time reviewing the “incident” and the found nothing. Yet, Hackett apparently wasn’t letting it go and was spewing classless BS (like a typical Trojie) after the game:

"Did he (say he apologize)? His nose must be growing.

I saw him smile at me," Hackett said. "I asked him if it was on purpose and he smiled. When a guy turns into and catches you in the face, you can't call it inadvertent. Obviously there was some purpose to it.

"I didn't flop on that. They wouldn't like it if someone hit them in the mouth like that. Please don't make a story out of this."

Yeah, he doesn’t flop like that. Uh hum. Somehow incidents just happen to follow around Hackett. I am sure it was an “accident” when he got his jaw broken by OJ Payo. I am sure it was just an “accident” when IIRC he was involved in the injuries LRMAM and LMR suffered in the first game against these goons in Pauley. I am sure it was just a coincidence when Hackett was involved in another elbow related incident against their game against Georgia Tech earlier this season.

Hackett is nothing but a mediocre college player who is at best crafty and at worst a dirty basketball player. He is a tool taking on the persona of his idiotic head coach. More wisdom from Hackett:

"We shot better than them, we rebounded better and we were even in turnovers," Hackett said. "It came down to a couple plays where they executed and we didn't."

He just left out the part where his team was shut down completely on the defensive side when it counted most. He also left out the part how it was the Ben Ball warriors who wore his team out down the stretch and completely negated the edge the Trojies had around the boards and the hustle department due to superior team conditioning and depth. Anyway, it will be fun taking on Hackett and rest his classless team-mates when they come into Pauley. No doubt our Den will be prepared.

Meanwhile, last night’s game also gave our team a huge opportunity to gain confidence in terms of pulling out wins in hostile environment. It’s clear this team has taken some forward steps since those losses against Michigan and Texas. It was another character building win following the gut check we survived in Eugene.

We still have ways to go in terms of playing consistent Ben Ball standard defense for the entire 40 mins. We need to do a better job of sustaining intensity and develop the special killer instinct that puts away a team a little early. Plus our interior defense needs to get better and we also need more hustle and intense effort from kids like MR and JK in big games.

Still, I don’t have a lot of complaint with where we are at this point of the season. Hopefully we will get ML and JM back in action for the Arizona schools this weekend and continue to the momentum we seem to be building game by game. It's fun to watch this team with great mix of veterans and younguns develop into another prototype mix of Ben Ball warriors.

GO BRUINS.