Thursday, February 08, 2007

U$C 65; UCLA 70

We've seen this all season. UCLA's opponent starts fast, but the methodical Bruins cut into the lead, keep the game close, survive a couple of spurts and win the game, which was kept close by a flurry of three pointers from the women of troy. South Central actually played a very a good game, and both Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young are terrific players, but at Pauley, a short bench just isn't going to be enough to beat UCLA.

I'm usually fairly quick to call out the officials when UCLA or Illinois loses a close game, but the fact is that home cooking is as much a part of college basketball as zone defense and undershirts. It's always been that way, and it's something that the road team has to deal with. That said, there was a large discrepancy from the free throw line, and UCLA took advantage of it, shooting over 77% at the charity stripe. If I were a trojans fan, I'd be upset about two calls in particular:
  1. The technical foul on Lodrick Stewart: I think the refereee misinterpreted the outburst. I don't think Stewart was upset with the foul called on Shipp's layup (which wasn't called on him). But the fact is that it's virtually an automatic call when you slam the ball into the floor and don't catch it on the bounce. It wasn't a smart play, and I think if he had it do again, he'd clearly contain himself. It turned into a five point play and was probably the difference in the game.
  2. The intentional foul call in the final minute: They may be upset about that call, but for once, the officials got it exactly right. I rewound and watched that play a few times, and Alfred Aboya spends about 20 seconds covering about 150 yards in the front court, running in circles away from defenders until he finally had his jersey yanked. I kind of hoped he'd run into the back court just to see if one of the $C would have chased after him.
Late in the game, there was an inbounds play where $C was going to foul right away. Tim Floyd was about 10 feet out onto the floor in the corner where UCLA was inbounding the ball. He seems to spend a lot of time on the court. I was kind of hoping that the player inbounding the ball would throw it at him, not to inflict pain or anything, but just because I want to see what would be called. It would have to be a technical, right?

Anyway, the player of the game for the Bruins was pretty clearly Darren Collison, who poured in a career high 17 points. The numbers don't tell the entire story, particularly the two assists against six turnovers, which admittedly looks pretty bad. But he was the only Bruin who was able to penetrate, and he did so for a couple of layups. On the defensive end, I thought LRMAM played an excellent game, in addition to collecting another double-double (11 points and 10 boards). Alfred Aboya had a nice 20 minutes as well, going 4-4 from the floor. And finally, Russel Westbrook gave the Bruins a nice lift early in the game when they were struggling against the zone. He was able to penetrate once for a short jumper, and again on a play that led to an easy Aboya layup.

The Bruins aren't going to win many games in which they make only two of seventeen three pointers, but the good thing is that there aren't going to be too many games where they shoot threes that poorly. This was not a textbook performance. They essentially partly because of their defense, and partly because of their ability to get to the line and make their free throws. But the mark of a good team is the ability to win games when they aren't at their best, and the Bruins proved last night that they have that ability.

Tough road trip on tap for next week coming off Saturday's game at West Virginia (which I may not get on TV). They had to McKale to play Arizona, who is looking for a big win coming off a series of losses. And they can't overlook Arizona State, who isn't very good, but gave Washington State all they could handle last week. A sweep in the desert should solidify their position at the top of the standings.

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