Sunday, February 17, 2008

UCLA 56; U$C 46

It was an ugly game, and a really ugly final five or six minutes of offense for the Bruins, but on defense, it was a thing of beauty. Yes, the thugs shot 46.5%, but the trojans were one and done virtually all night, collecting only five offensive rebounds. Of course, that was when they weren't none and done. UCLA forced 22 turnovers, against nine of their own. T.O. O.J. Mayo had almost half of those by himself. When you grab eight more rebounds, and force 13 more turnovers, most of the time you're going to win the game, even on a night where shots and free throws aren't falling.

As for Mayo, Westbrook simply dominated him on defense. He finished the game with four points on 2-8 shooting. Darren Collison added 14 points of his own while applying excellent pressure to Angelo Johnson. It was a different Darren Collison than the one we saw in Seattle.

I'll admit, I'm a little confounded that Ben Howland didn't try to pound the ball into the post a lot more, especially after Taj Gibson picked up his third foul. Floyd showed that nothing short of a gunshot wound (it *is* South Central) or disqualification was going to keep Gibson out of the game, so I really expected UCLA to go inside in attempt to get Gibson his fourth foul. $C only got eight minutes from their bench, and those came after Davon "I hope they bring it" Jefferson picked up his second foul.

On the outside, both teams were awful, combining to go 4-21 from beyond the arc. Kevin Love hit the only two three pointers for the Bruins. Josh Shipp's shooting woes continued as he finished just 2-7, 0-2 from long range. But what they lacked from the outside, they made up for with very strong interior defense, and the aforementioned rebounding edge. It can't be any clearer at this point that the Bruins are a different team with LRMAM in the lineup than they are without him. Without him, they are a good team. With him, they are a great team. Coming off a bad ankle sprain, he put up 10 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked a shot. They need him healthy for the tournament.

This is not one that will be featured on any classic games telecast, but the Bruins got a much needed win, and now have only one road trip remaining. They are once again in the driver's seat for the conference championship.

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