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Senior Week: Simple But Special Storylines For Ben Ball Warriors

This week's storyline is pretty simple. It is all about celebrating our three seniors and last night the game went according to that script. JS, DC, and PAA had special nights to start probably the most special basketball senior week we have had in Westwood in years.

We will start with JS who put together probably his most spectacular game (stat wise) of this season. As mentioned in the post game thread JS outscored the entire Oregon State at first half 22-19. The beauty of JS's performance was that it all came within in the flow of the game (okay ... except for one "heatcheck" shot he took late in the first half). From the LA Times:

"He let everything come to him," Coach Ben Howland said. "Just had an unbelievable half."

His team-mates and President Obama's brother-in-law (Oregon State's head coach) were impressed:

"When he's shooting the ball," backcourt mate Darren Collison said of Shipp, "he makes it easier for the rest of the team."

Oregon State Coach Craig Robinson noticed.

"It was like he was shooting in his yard . . . not playing anybody," Robinson said. "It was like a free-for-all."

JS's performance wasn't a surprise. Mark Saxon from the OC Register noted how clutch JS has been with UCLA's season on the line last four games:

With the Bruins' postseason seeding on the line, Shipp has been at his best. The fifth-year senior was shooting 64 percent from 3-point range in the four games entering Thursday.

"I'm just happy for him," Coach Ben Howland said. "He's worked really hard to be the outstanding player he is and he's really done a good job with his leadership."

And speaking of leadership, DC might have been quiet from the scoring stand point, but he made sure to make his presence feel all over the court. The senior point guard finished he night with a career high 11 rebounds (coming close to a triple double with 6 points and 8 assists). More from the OC Register:

Collison also had eight assists and scored six points. Those aren't his usual numbers, but the Beavers' odd Princeton-style offense makes for strange statistical lines.

Oregon State center Roeland Schaftenaar spent much of the game hovering near the top of the key.

"My guy was pretty much chilling in the back," Collison said.

Collison said seeing ex-Bruins center Kevin Love in the front row at Pauley Pavilion also inspired him to hit the boards with more aggression.

The topic of inspiration leads us to PAA. The biggest story heading into last night's game was the attendance of the Aboyas - Baliaba Aboya Casimir and Kofane Angele - for the first time in PAA's career at UCLA. Having them in the stands surely made PAA a little nervous and excited early on as he picked up 2 quick fouls, but it didn't matter much. PAA had his share of moments on the court making some great shots (including a jumper that got Pauley roaring in appreciation) in the second half but the meaning of last night's game went beyond the stat line for PAA. Here is Coach Howland on his first ever meeting with the Aboyas:

Aboya's father, Baliaba Aboya Casimir, and his mother, Kedi Kofane Angele, do not speak English, but they met with Bruins coach Ben Howland for the first time Wednesday.

"The fruit doesn't fall far from the tree is true in this case. You can see that," Howland said. "I was trying to tell his parents how much I love Alfred, and how proud I am, and what a joy it's been to have him in the program for the last four years. Alfred, it's hard for him to express that, so I need to find another interpreter so we can really communicate."

Even though both sides were having tough time to find the right words, the mutual feeling wasn't lost in translation:

"I can't find the words to explain what Alfred has done," Angele said through a translator. "It's been a long time and lots of hard work. I'm very proud and amazed by the fact that school has meant a lot, and helped him with his well-being."

I don't know perhaps the Den can start chanting what we did to the O'Bannons when they walked Ed'Os on the court on his senior day (I will not write it here but those of you who were there in Ed'O's last game at Pauley, which also happened to be against Oregon know exactly what I am talking about)? Kidding.

PAA seemed to be in cloud 9 during the post game interviews and he also provided the following tidbit about his grandmother which made me spit my coffee into the desktop this am:

Aboya was also asked where he got his athletic talent from. When he mentioned it came from his mom's side, and his 6-foot-8 grandmother, the question was asked whether she played sports. He response made teammates Shipp and Darren Collison burst into good-natured laughter.

"She didn't play any sports. She grew crops," said Aboya, who also laughed heartily. "Yams, cabbages. Anything."

May be Coach Howland can hire an extra assistant to scour all over the farms of Cameroon?

It's too bad tomorrow afternoon's game is ABC regional. I think many of us out in the East and the Midwest will not get to watch the special moments when these three kids - key parts of the core of original Ben Ball warriors - walk to the court for the last time. I am getting goosebumps just thinking about how it is going to feel inside Pauley when JS, DC, and PAA walk to the center court with their parents. Again I really believe it will be probably be one of the most emotionally poigant moments for UCLA basketball program since the senior day of 1995. It will be something special and I am extremely envious of those who are going to get to experience it in person.

As for the game I don't really feel like nitpicking this am about our sloppy defense early on or how we were giving up offensive rebounds in the first half. I do want to single out JH for the defense he played on Calvin Haynes. JH shut the Beaver's leading scorer down completey. Haynes scored 2 points missing all 7 of his FG attempts. I am hoping it's a sign of JH picking up some much needed defensive confidence heading into final stretch of 08-09 season. Then again perhaps he is also getting caught up in all the speical moments and feeling extra inspired in this senior week at Pauley. Again ... getting goosebumps thinking about tomorrow.