Friday, March 13, 2009

UCLA 64; Wazzu 53

On February 21st, Washington State torched the UCLA defense, shooting 59% and scoring 82 points in an 82-81 victory at Pauley Pavilion. Their return trip to L.A. didn't go so well. The Cougars found the going much more difficult tonight, scoring almost 30 fewer points, and shooting only 30% from the field. The Bruins weren't excellent by any means, but they made 43% of their long range shots, and took advantage of poor shooting by the Cougars to avenge last months loss. They will move on to face USC in the tournament semi-final tonight.

The Bruins did the bulk of their damage with an early 21-0 run that turned a 5-4 deficit into a 25-5 advantage. Washington State never got closer than nine points the rest of the way, failing to take advantage of plenty of open looks in the first half, and repeatedly failing to convert offensive rebounds into points. Aron Baynes muscled his way to 22 points, but the trio of Caleb Forest, Taylor Rochestie, and Klay Thompson, who combined for 60 points at Pauley, combined for only 20 in this game.

I'll be honest. I hesitate to give the Bruins a ton of credit for their defense tonight. They didn't force a ton of turnovers, they allowed 12 offensive rebounds to the Cougs, and it generally looked like Wazzu just failed to take advantage of early opportunities before getting into a whole from which they could not extricate themselves. But I do give the Bruins credit for taking advantage of Wazzu mistakes early, going on that early run, and responding to every threat the rest of the way.

Darren Collison had 15 points to lead the Bruins, doing the bulk of that damage from the line (8-10). Josh Shipp (10), Jrue Holiday (10), and Nikola Dragovic (12) also finished in double figures for UCLA. Dragovic may responsible for the night's most surprising line. His 12 points came without a three pointer, and he had eight points in the paint (he was also 4-4 from the line). Holiday in particular rebounded from a horrid defensive effort last month to put the clamps on Klay Thompson. The box score may not tell the whole tale, but Michael Roll deserves some credit as well. He had only four points, both layups, one very tough. But his first bucket ended a 7-0 WSU run at a time when the Bruins were struggling to score, and his second basket ended a 6-0 run. He didn't score a lot, but he picked important moments.

The Bruins will have to find a way to play better defense in the post against USC. Taj Gibson doesn't have Baynes' size, but his athleticism could pose problems for Alfred Aboya, who didn't play his best game tonight.

The teams will tip it off at about 8:30 Pacific Time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Matt Greene is Much Touger Than Me

I say that because I probably wouldn't have the stones to do this.

Yes, that was a shot that he blocked....with his freaking face!

I especially like the expression on Jonathan Quick's face in that shot. The Kings are fighting for a playoff spot. They played a great first period, an OK second period, and a poor third period, but they held on for the win, thanks to Matt Greene's very bloody forehead.

Dean Lombardi has taken a lot of heat from fans the past few years, but since arriving, he has rebuilt the farm system, stocked the blue line with young talent, and made a couple great trades. Yes, the Cloutier deal was flat out awful. Yes, Preissing has disappointed, and Nagy, well, let's forget he ever played for the Kings.

But the Handzus signing looks brilliant right now. He's rid the teams of guys who wanted to play in the NHL, but didn't want to play for the Kings (Cammalleri and O'Sullivan). In a widely criticized deal, he traded one of the team's few veteran defensemen in Lubomir Visnovsky for Matt Greene and Jarret Stoll. How'd that work out? Lubo is hurt, Stoll had two power play goals last night, and Greene, well, you saw what he did. If the Sully for Justin Williams deal works out like the Visnovsky-Stoll-Greene deal has worked out, the Kings will be a very good team next season, and may still sneak into the playoffs this year.

I love watching this team. And when I watch guys like Teddy Purcell, Wayne Simmonds (who I think has had a terrific rookie season), Drew Doughty, and Jack Johnson (admittedly probably hitting a bit of mid-season wall after his injury), I can't wait to see what's to come.