Saturday, December 31, 2005

UC Berkeley 68; UCLA 61

Pretty weak performance by the Bruins this afternoon. They were dominated on the glass, they missed open shots when they really needed to make them, and they were ultimately undone by freshman mistakes at the end.

Berkeley is very long in the interior, and it's tempting to say that the injuries to Hollins and Fey really hurt against a team like Berkeley. But since Hollins and Fey aren't threats offensively, and since they don't really play defense, and since they don't rebound, it's hard to say their absense made a difference. Maybe if the Bruin bigs had been in foul trouble all afternoon, you could make that case.

Shipp looked a little slow, which is to be expected. Coming off of a big injury as he had, it's often the second game where you really feel it. He still contributed, but he and Farmar missed back to back wide open threes from the left baseline with the Bruins trailing that were key misses (Afflalo missed a wide open three minutes later). Despite the poor play from just about everyone except Afflalo and Alfred Aboya (who had a bit of a coming out today), the Bruins still had a chance to win or at least send the game to overtime. Afflalo made a great strip on a penatration by Ayinde Ubaka, only to have Daren Collison get greedy and screw it up. Collison, instead of securing the loose ball, tried to rake the ball to himself as he started down court to start a fast break before he had possession. He never got close enough to the ball, Ayinde got it back, and laid it in for a four point lead, and UCLA never had a chance after that. Trailing by three with under a minute to play, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (who still led the team in rebounding despite grabbing only four who failed to lead the team in rebounding for the first time this season) ran away from the inbounds play when UCLA needed to foul, proving that he still has a few things to learn as well.

The old maxim is that to win the Pac 10, you need to win your home games, and split on the road. UCLA is now already behind the game with this loss, and it doesn't get any easier, with the Arizona schools next, followed by the Washington schools. At the end of the season, when UCLA is watching Berkeley, Arizona (who won at U-W today), or Washington celebrate a conference title, they're going to remember this one.

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.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Light Posting

Christmas break. Family in town. Kicked out of my old bedroom, where the computer resides.

Just got back from the crowdedest place on earth. Ugh.