Friday, February 16, 2007

Thank God for Darren Collison

Is there any question now why UCLA lost against West Virginia? Aaron Afflalo had the bigger numbers last night (and take nothing away from Aaron, who played a very fine game), but Darren Collison was the difference in last night's 67-61 victory at Arizona State.

With 11 minutes to go, the Bruins trailed by 10 points. They had scored five points in the half to that point, both coming on jump shots by Michael Roll. UCLA got four points in one possession on a layup by Alfred Aboya --> foul --> missed free throw --> offensive rebound --> dunk by Josh Shipp. That started an 18-2 Bruins run, and directly preceded 11 straight points from Collison, including three 3-pointers. After an Afflalo three pointer capped the run, putting the Bruins up by six, it became a free throw fest for UCLA, and they got the job done at the line to preserve the victory.

Collison's 18 points were a career high, but the difference in the game was the lift he gave the Bruins during that run. One of those threes came as the shot clock expired, and it gave the Bruins the lead. What could have been, SHOULD have been a fruitless possession, turned into a three point lead, and the Bruins never looked back.

Josh Shipp was disappointing, and it's becoming a trend. His only field goal was the dunk, although he did hit some big free throws down the stretch, and added 6 assists. But he was 1-5 from the field, with three rebounds and four turnovers. Maybe he's not completely healthy. Maybe his hip is bothering him. But he needs to step up. I hope he wasn't just looking past this game. If he can't get up for a game against his brother, that's not a good sign.

Still, the Bruins got back on the winning track. ASU is not very good, but they aren't awful, despite their winless Pac 10 season to this point. The Pac 10 is very good, and they've lost a ton of very close games. But the Bruins are going to need to play much better to beat an Arizona team that's much better than it has shown this season. And with the season they've had, nothing would lift their spirits more than a win over UCLA. Coming off their loss to U$C, they're going to be very hungry.

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