Not quite so much drama as the last time the Bruins were the Sweet 16, but a win is a win, and the Bruins are still playing. They'll face Kansas on Saturday.
In a bit of a change of pace, UCLA won this game at the free throw line. That's right, I said they *won* it at the line, making 23 of their 26 free throws. And quite frankly, if you watched the game, you shouldn't have been surprised. Why? Look at the free throw distribution. Of their 26 free throws, 22 were shot by Arron Afflalo (10/10), Darren Collison (6/6), and Josh Shipp (5/6). If those three had shot 86% of UCLA's free throws all season, they wouldn't have been at the bottom of the Pac 10.
The defense was stifling yet again. The press will write about how UCLA was lucky that Pitt missed so many easy shots. My response: What easy shots? Not only did the Bruins play their typical ball hawking defense on the perimeter, but they brought quick double teams on Aaron Gray (who had all of one assist to show for his great passing out of double teams), and they routinely made life miserable for Pitt in the paint. Lorenzo Mata may only be somewhere between 6'8" and 6'10", but the guy probably has the strongest lower body in the country. You simply don't back him down. Other than the misadventures of Alfred Aboya and Ryan Wright (note to Dick Enberg: They aren't the same guy - Wright wears a head band), the Bruin defense was very stingy inside.
Unsung hero of the game? He was 2-2 with five points, no assists, no rebounds, no steals. But Michael Roll knocked down both of his open shots. With the Bruins leading by five, and under a minute to play, Darren Collison drove the lane, kicked it out to Roll, and his two point jumper made it a three possession game, essentially icing the victory. He didn't force it. He didn't try to do things he couldn't do in the first half. He waited for the game to come to him, and hit a huge shot.
Arron Afflalo shot the ball poorly, but did his damage at the free throw line and finished with 17 points. Josh Shipp shot it a little better, hit a couple of big threes, and finished with 16 of his. And Darren Collison didn't put up great numbers across the board, but he still finished with 12 points on 3-5 shooting, though I would like to see a little better assist/turnover ratio (4/3 may not cut it against Kansas).
Again, I don't know a ton about the Jayhawks, other than I hate their coach, and I don't think he's all that good. From what I saw tonight, they look long and athletic. No huge force on the inside, but they may create matchup problems in the backcourt. I like the fact that Collison has the experience edge over Sherron Collins. That could be a difference maker. And the best news of all, there won't be any other games on at the same time, so I'll actually get to see the whole game in HD.
Final notes: It's hard not to like Aaron Gray. Dude looks like the Michelin Man when he comes out the game, bouncing from side to side with a dumb guy grin on his face. Good luck to him in the NBA. Also, Satan lost tonight. Sure, it was against OhowIhateOhioState, but Satan is dead nonetheless. Bruce Pearl, quite possibly the biggest piece of shit in college basketball, is done, and that makes me happy.