Friday, February 23, 2007

An Historic Evening

  • Roughly 2000 years ago, give or take, Jesus quelled the unrest of a group of wedding guests looking to get wasted by turning water into wine.
  • In 1858, in a grotto near Lourdes, France, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, a 14 year old peasant girl. Since then thousands of people have been miraculously cured at site.
  • On February 22, 2007, Lorenzo Mata made eight of nine free throws.

UCLA once against shook off a slow start last night, especially on the defensive end (UC Berkeley made 9 of their first 12 shots), only to come out on a mission in the second half, blowing the Bears out of the water in the process. The 10 point final margin was no indication of just how badly the Bruins dominated Berkeley. At one points, the Bruins turned what was once a 9 point deficit into a 25 point lead before garbage time cut into that advantage.

For the second straight game, Josh Shipp asserted himself with 22 points on 9-12 shooting to go along with six assists. He benefited from a flurry of fast breaks in the second half as the Bruins extended their lead. Aaron Afflalo added 13 of his own, while Darren Collison, who suffered from early foul trouble in the first half, was able to take the night off and let the rest of the team do the heavy lifting. As a team, the Bruins shot 61% from the field. Special recognition should also go to Russell Westbrook, coming off a couple of games in which he didn't get big minutes, he stepped in after Collison's second foul and immediately scored five quick points, trimming an eight point deficit to three, and keeping UC Berkeley from padding their lead early. His arrival also coincided with a defensive clampdown that helped UCLA erase that deficit and take a one point lead into the half.

How easy were the baskets coming? UCLA made - MADE - eight more three pointers against Arizona than they TOOK against Berkeley. They simply didn't need to settle for a lot of jump shots.

On the other end, Berkeley held their own, shooting 60%, and really lit it up from three point range. Of course, a fair amount of that shooting percentage was due to poor play by the Bruin bench after the game was decided, when UC Berkeley trimmed a 21 point deficit to the final losing margin. Indeed, a look at the peripheral numbers doesn't show the blowout that this came between. UCLA had the turnover edge (8-12), rebounding edge (23-20), and made two more free throws. Those numbers don't scream blowout. But that will happen when the game is basically over by the under-eight TV time out.

The story of the game, however, was Lorenzo Mata. Nine free throws, and eight through the hoop. How significant was that? He entered the game shooting 31% from the line. He left it shooting 38%. That's a seven per cent increase for a starting center, and it's late February. He's now 10 of his last 11. This is still a blip, and not quite yet a trend, but if he keeps up something close to this new level, it will make a big strategic difference for Ben Howland going into the post-season. Before the Arizona game, Mata's free throw shooting was so bad that he simply couldn't be on the floor when the Bruins had the ball in the final four minutes of the game. Couple that with Howland's fetish for using all his time-outs with about eight minutes left, and that means that Mata, their best shot blocker, couldn't be out there for defense either. This new development, if indeed it is indicative of a new level of ability, changes everything.

Combined with Wazzu's loss at Oregon (nice last possession, Cougs), UCLA takes a two game conference lead into Saturday's game at Stanford. Win that, and they clinch a share of the conference title. Lose on Saturday and they can still win the outright title in Pullman next Thursday, but they would jeopardize their number one seed, especially with games against two tough teams in their gyms next week.


Anonymous said...

mata got went straight up latin king style on the charity stripe! bam!!! bam! bam! bam! bam! bam! bam! BAM!!!

Anonymous said...

Very good article...infomational for sure...looking forward to reading some more posts placed on this topic...will be checking this page again..have saved in favorites and bookmarked...thanks

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