Five minutes into the first half of UCLA's crosstown matchup against USC, Goran furiously fast-forwards through a commercial break, shaking his head. It isn't disappointment he feels, nor is it fear of a loss in a crucial game; the singular thought that arises in his head is "Ugh, here we go again."
The Bruins, nearly all season long, have had a tendency of starting off slowly- a real pain in the tuchus (ass, for all of you non-Yiddish speakers) for a devoted fan, who is then forced to cringe and wait as UCLA chips away and pulls through in the end. Despite their stellar record (20-2 going into the game against the Trojans), most of UCLA's victories have not been pretty. In fact, the emotion most frequently expressed by Goran at the conclusion of their games has been relief, rather than jubilation. Not tonight.
USC came into the game with tremendous confidence, having won five games against top-25 ranked opponents already this season, including #13 Oregon twice. In the previous matchup between the Bruins and the Trojans in USC's brand new Galen Center, UCLA went on a typical late game charge and won on a 15-foot jumper by Arron Afflalo with 4 seconds left. The Trojans knew they could compete in the rematch, and compete they did. Nick Young was absolutely unstoppable, proving once again that he is among the top players in the conference, worthy of national recognition. However, UCLA once again did what they do so well- they found a way to get the W, and sent the "connies" (as Ali G would most certainly refer to them) back to their far less beautiful, far more ghetto side of town.
Sports cliches aside ("we just take it one game at a time," "we knew what we had to do and we went out and did it," "it was a total team effort," "a win is a win" - bonus points to anyone who guesses which of these were actually spoken in the post-game interviews), the Bruins have been able to win consistently with the following formula: incredibly stingy and suffocating defense, particularly by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, masterful coaching by Ben Howland, excellent bench contributions by Russell Westbrook, Alfred Aboya and Michael Roll, the gritty determination of Lorenzo Mata, the versatility and toughness of Josh Shipp, the quickness and poise of Darren Collison, and the leadership and shooter's touch of their star Afflalo. Watch out for this team- they may not lose another game. This is the first year in recent memory that seems to be leading up to a potential Championship rematch game against Florida, and mark my words (unless your name is Smokey, in which case you should mark it zero, because this is not 'Nam, and you were over the line)-- it will happen.
As the final horn sounds, Goran grabs his chubby half-asleep French bulldog puppy by his loose rolls of extra skin [see above] and exclaims "We did it, brosef! They came into our house and tried to exact revenge for their humiliating defeat in foosball, but we wouldn't let it happen, would we? Noooo, not you, with those jowls of yours, and certainly not me- me, with my bizarre infatuation with those jowls, noooooo."
UCLA 70 - USC 65
[Note from the editor: Yes, Goran watched UNC/Duke also, but to counteract the biases present in typical nationwide coverage (Dick Vitale actually dared to call the ACC underrated during the game- what a clown ((This editor is obsessed with parenthetical statements))), we here at Lion In Oil will present you with a healthy dose of Pac-10 commentary]