Bruins not about to get complacent

first_imgAs in so many of second-ranked UCLA’s 26 wins this season, Afflalo was the central figure, offensively and defensively. And as it has been since he announced he was returning for his junior season, he is the one who measures where the Bruins stand. So it was significant when Afflalo said shortcomings, on a team that is 26-3 and 15-2 in the Pac-10, still needed fixing. SEATTLE – A few minutes after UCLA guard Arron Afflalo’s latest all-around performance, he leaned against a hallway wall, about 30 feet from the Bruins’ locker room, let out a deep sigh and smiled. It was a rare moment of relaxation for Afflalo, UCLA’s unquestioned leader, as he absorbed the significance of a 53-45 victory over 13th-ranked Washington State that gave the Bruins their second consecutive Pacific-10 Conference title. A left knee injury to Aboya is UCLA’s latest concern, and he is not expected to play against the Huskies. However, during a season when highly-ranked teams are routinely defeated and no dominant team has emerged, dissecting UCLA’s faults may be knit-picking. “I think we’re playing our best basketball,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “We are better (than last season) and part of that is the experience of having last year. (Now it is) `We’re going to win on the road. We’re going to win close games. This is what we do.’ That’s their mindset.” “Everybody is real unselfish, our chemistry is improving every day, and that’s all it takes to win a national championship,” Collison said. “Your chemistry really has to be at a high standard.” UCLA’s ability to work hard every game speaks of its maturity, which began to blossom during last season’s run to the title game. “I do think we’re getting better, on both ends of the floor,” Afflalo said. “We still have our lapses, but I hope we’re not peaking. We need to make more improvement in more areas to guarantee we continue to play for another month.” [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!center_img “You’re never going to be perfect, but you strive for it and there are some things we still need to work on,” Afflalo said. “We have a few lapses on the way we execute offensively, and then (with) our intensity defensively. There were times last year where we were just focused in and it seemed like every possession was hard for the other team. “Every shot was contested, every pass, every move, was complicated for the other team. You could tell. This year, we still have some little lapses. I think if we take care of those things, we’ll be fine when the time is right.” Today’s game at seventh-place Washington (17-12, 7-10) has no bearing on the conference race but could impact the national picture. UCLA likely will be the No. 1 seed in the West when the NCAA tournament begins in less than two weeks, but a few more wins could give the Bruins the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. By then, UCLA wants to iron out a few other issues. The Bruins still have too many possessions in which point guard Darren Collison is dribbling out of trouble as the shot clock winds down, and it usually ends in a hurried shot. Also, the post play of center Lorenzo Mata, power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and reserve Alfred Aboya remains inconsistent. last_img