Friday, December 30, 2005

UCLA 71; Stanford 54

After 8 straight losses at Pauley to the Cardinal, the Bruins finally put on a good performance at home against Stanford and raced out to a 17 point advantage that would end up being the final margin. No lackluster defense that led to a blowout. Now unconscious perfomance from Chris Hernandez. No subtle "coach's kid" cheapness from Dan Grunfeld.

Instead, the Bruins brought their great post defense from the Michigan game, and Aaron Afflalo continued to make his case for being one of the best off guards in the country, tying his career high with 23 points while draining three more three-pointers on five attempts. The Bruins raced out to an 18-1 lead with contributions from all of the starters, including Josh Shipp, making his first start and getting his first minutes of the season. If this is only a beginning, than it was a great sign for the Bruins, as Shipp poured in 11 points in 29 minutes, albeit on only 4-11 shooting (but 2-4 from three point land). They needed those minutes, because foul trouble and a twisted ankle limited Jordan Farmar to only 14 minutes. No word yet on the extent of the injury. With Ced Bozeman sidelined due to a rotator cuff injury, the burden fell to Darren Collison to carry the load at the point, who only added four points, but also picked up 8 assists against five turnovers.

No action from the bi-injured FeLlins, but really, who cares at this point. Lo Mata has really improved on the defensive end. Only four boards, but three blocks. Ryan Wright and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute can already do two pretty big things that FeLlins can't: 1) Rebound (they combined for 16, 12 from LRMAM) and 2) catch passes into the post. Of the many frustrations that FelLins has been responsible for over the years, none has been more of a thorn in my side than its inability to catch passes into the post. And LRMAM, damn, what a freaking rebounder.

Great start to the conference season, and another test awaits with UC Berkeley on Saturday. A post oriented offense with Leon Powe up front, I suspect we'll see a lot of what we saw against Michigan, and that's quick double teams in the post. The big men defend well enough, and the guards are quick enough to make this work (although poor shooting from Daniel Horton helped in the Michigan game).

One down, seventeen to go.

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