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Just A Typical Day For UCLA Basketball

Chris Dufresne from the LAT sums up a Humpday to rememer for Bruin Nation:

It was a typical day for UCLA basketball and a really good one for UCLA football.

"Great recruiting year for UCLA football!" Howland chimed at the end of his news conference.

We will get to the recruiting news later. For now we need to mark Dohn's poigant observation re. the so called "rivalry" between UCLA and Southern Cal basketball programs (emphasis added)

In the third game since Bruins coach Ben Howland met with his senior leaders, the 15 th-ranked Bruins treated their opponent like a low-level mid-major, building a 23-point halftime lead en route to a 76-60 thrashing of crosstown rival USC on Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion.

That's pretty much it. Isn't it. After all the nonsense of "gap closing" of last few years Ben Ball warriors have beaten those chumps 6 out of last 7 meetings in past three years. Coming into this game we had heard about how the Trojies were the hottest team in the Pac-10 but all that went out in the wayside as the Ben Ball warriors blitzed Timmeh's posters our of Pauley by midway through the first half/.

So many good things happened last night. As T noted in his post game thread it was difficult to single someone out as everyone seem to give an all out effort right from the start. Perhaps they were inspired by another memorable performance by AA2, who seems to be getting better by every game. He IMHO was the player of the game with 14 pts and 12 boards, setting the tone early with his all out hustle. He was diving for every lose ball, soaring up for rebounds and making it easy for his team-mates by constantly cutting to the basket. More from Dohn:

Senior center Alfred Aboya recorded his second career double-double, scoring 14 points and matching his career-high with 12 rebounds.

UCLA was again balanced in scoring, with four players reaching double figures. The Bruins were led by Josh Shipp's 19 points. Jrue Holiday had 13 points and six assists and Nikola Dragovic added 12 points.

I'd like to single JS not for his team leading 19 points or exceptional FT shooting (11-12). Nor did I think his best moment was the pretty dunk around the 7 min mark of the second half. I was incredibly proud at the composure and poise JS showed when Hackett went after him with his usual cheap, thuggish foul. JS didn't retaliate and fall into Hackett's trap. He gathered himself, got right up, and turned up his intensity few more notches. JS's cool reaction sent the unmistakable message to Hackett and rest of the Trojies that we didn't think they were worth the trouble. That was leadership.

Also providing leadership was our senior pg who might not have had a great night offensively, but was instrumental in our suffocating, inside-the-jersey defense:

Collison, the Bruins' point guard, is no longer sitting back on defense. He is challenging opposing point guards further out on the court, and he harassed USC's Daniel Hackett, who scored just two points before fouling out with more than nine minutes remaining.

"Collison's ball pressure made their point guard, the first 10 minutes, have to turn his back to run their offense because it was just so ferocious," Howland said. "It was a great game. Our bench continues to get better and better. Everyone is contributing for this team right now, so it's exciting."

Again here is the LAT (which was so flustered with their favorite Trojans having a bad day on all fronts yesterday that they misreported the score as respectable 76-70) on the story of last night's game:

Playing in front of the loudest home crowd of the season -- an announced attendance of 12,179 -- the Bruins won with pressure defense, holding USC stars Gibson and Daniel Hackett to a combined four points. They won with forward Nikola Dragovic's raining three-point shots and Josh Shipp's flying to the basket for a team-high 19 points.

This was the bad USC -- see the end of the Oregon State game -- looking flustered, suffering from poor shot selection and, even worse, 23 turnovers.

"That was the story of the ballgame," USC Coach Tim Floyd said.

Thanks for helping out Timmeh.

Going back to our defense what I am particularly noticing is how much tighter our defensive rotation is now compared to what we were seeing few weeks ago. Not only our freshmen are playing at a different level but lot of the upperclassmen such as ND and ML (who had two spectacular blocks) have turned it up few notches.

I do have two quibbles from last night's game. I do think we took our feet off the gas peddle a little in stretches during the second half. We were settling for jump shots too much and getting sloppy on offense. Also, as much I have been JK's game last few weeks, I think he took a step back yesterday with some questionable shot selections in the second half. But I have no doubt JK will get better.

Obviously there is a lot of season left. As scary as it might sound for rest of the country, Bruins still have a lot of room for improvement. Hopefully JH will continue to play at the level he has been at last three games. We will need JA, DG, and ML to continue to provide spark off the bench.  I will end with this note from Coach Howland:

"I'm really excited with how we're playing right now," Howland said. "I think this team is really improving as we move forward."

Hopefully they can keep this trend going when taking on a solid Irish team this Saturday morning. Here is to more "typical day for UCLA basketball" rest of the season.