Last night's game showed just how much this Bruin team relies upon emotion and expending maximum effort in order to thrive. The game also shows just how much this team has grown since last year - even if they still have much work to go. This was the sort of game that last year's team would have mailed in once Washington State went on their first-half run. Instead, the Bruins answered back, even if it took a few extra minutes to get it going.
"It was a gut check," said Bruins guard Malcolm Lee, who had 21 points. "It shows how much heart we have. They went on a little run and we didn’t get down on ourselves. Basketball is a game of runs and we just happened to make a run at the right time."
Coach Howland also cited the character present in this team's second half comeback against a streaking WSU squad during his postgame remarks.
"That was a great win against a very good team," coach Ben Howland said. "I’m really proud of our team the way we showed the character to fight back."
As several people did in our postgame thread, John Gold noted in his game report that in the second half, the (small) crowd in Pauley was the loudest that it had been in two years, providing an electric atmosphere for the Bruins response to the Cougar ownership of the first half. Let's hope that the fans that make it to Pauley in the next several weeks live up to the showing of last night's crowd. For anyone wondering about the effect on the crowd on the Bruins play, Coach Howland added that the team "really fed off the crowd in the second half." Tyler Honeycutt added:
"I haven't seen our crowd that loud in a long time,"
For all of the attention on the 51 points scored in the second half, and the 20+ point nights for Lee and Nelson, the victory came about in large part because of the team's improved defensive effort and execution in the latter half. The Bruins changed up their defensive strategy during halftime, with a focus on stopping the Cougars transition game (led by guard Reggie Moore) according to Nelson:
Moore was not the only Cougar to get the treatment by Bruin defenders. While Klay Thompson finished with a game high 26 points, he shot only 6-17 from the field, thanks to a top effort by Malcolm Lee.
"They went on a little run there to close the first half, and we all rallied in the locker room together," Nelson said. "We talked over what we needed to do, and mainly we started with stopping them in transition."
That all started with stopping point guard Reggie Moore, and unlike last season, the Bruins actually did that.
After scoring 24 points at Pauley Pavilion in a 74-62 UCLA win on Jan. 23 last season, Moore had just five on Wednesday as Jones forced him into 1-for-7 shooting.
Malcolm Lee provided a two-way threat, scoring 21 points and playing admirable defense on Washington State guard Klay Thompson. The Pac-10's leading scorer had 26 points but made only six of 17 shots, crediting the Bruins with changing their defensive approach on him in the second half.
"They stopped me from getting to the rim and made me pull up more," Thompson said.
While we celebrate the Bruins effort from last night, tomorrow sees the Bruins playing a rare weekday afternoon game against preseason Pac-10 favorite Washington (1PM Pacific @ Pauley). The Huskies are coming off of a 73-67 overtime win at $C in which they, like the Bruins last night dug themselves into an early hole. Freshman Terrance Ross led the Huskies with a career-high 18 points; Matthew Bryan-Amaning tied Ross with 18 points, along with 8 of Washington's 40 rebounds against the Trojans. The Huskies did turn the ball over 17 times, with just 7 assists last night.