When we just look at numbers, this Saturday’s game between our Ben Ball warriors and the gap closing losers from South Central is not much of a matchup. I imagine in the coming days we will read some BS from the traditional media about a "rivalry" and read some hype about a faceoff between Kevin Love and some over-hyped thug ball playing, freshman in name only OJ2 (Westbrook is younger than Juice Deuce). Ben Ball warriors are sitting pretty at the top of the conference while the losers from x-town are toiling around where they belong: near the basement of the Pac-10. Yet this game is shaping up to be a classic trap game in which Timmeh’s thugball playing losers will come in with the attitude of nothing to lose and give their best shot in trying to pull off the kind of aberration "upsets" Lavin’s crew used to successfully pull off at Maples Pavilion.
So Timmeh makes yet another return to the House that Wooden built this Saturday, where he is used to making a fool out of himself:
Timmeh Getting Unhinged & T'ed Up at Pauley in 06
Photo Credit: Jack Rosenfeld
That was Timmeh two years ago. This week he is trying to undercut the importance of this game (for his joke program), forgetting what he uttered about UCLA and taking personal shots at Coach Howland before the 2007 season (emphasis added):
"We're going to try to kick those guys' [rear ends] across town too!" Floyd exclaimed through a courtside microphone.
The previous day, at a luncheon attended by Southland coaches, Floyd delivered a not-so-subtle jab at Howland when he jokingly told the crowd that the balding UCLA coach might want to consider a new procedure in which it would be possible to transplant an entire scalp from a cadaver.
Anyway, Timmeh comes in this year with a team that lost a huge chunk of fire power in Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt. Those two talented players went on to the next level as many of us predicted they would during the last two season. They (along with Stewart who is no longer with the team) got Southern Cal into the tournament by somewhat buying into the team concept that we take for granted in Howland’s program in Westwood. So, enter two freshman – OJ2 (who everyone has heard about) and Davon Jefferson (another talented "freshman" with an interesting "academic" record coming in as 'a post-post-post graduate') – who are now leading their squad in scoring.
Here is how the Trojans’ rotation looks like right now:
Usual Starters -- F Davon Jefferson, F Taj Gibson, G Angelo Johnson, G Dwight Lewis, G O.J. Mayo. Key Subs -- G Daniel Hackett; F RouSean Cromwell; F Keith Wilkinson.
Freshman Davon Jefferson, the Trojans' second-leading scorer, was held out of the Washington State game for what coach Tim Floyd called "a coach's decision." He returned to the starting lineup against Washington, providing 10 points and three rebounds.
-- Freshman O.J. Mayo had 22 points, seven rebounds but also five of USC's 13 turnovers against Washington State. In the win over Washington, Mayo scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half, and added five assists and four rebounds despite taking a hard fall on his right hip in the second half.
-- Sophomore guard Daniel Hackett, who admitted the Trojans quit at the end of the Washington State loss, was pulled from the starting lineup against UW, replaced by freshman Angelo Johnson. Both players wound up scoring seven points in the win.
I don’t need to add any more to the commentary elsewhere on the kind of season OJ2 has been having. What I think is interesting is how OJ2 and Jefferson’s arrival has coincided with the diminished production of Taj Gibson (averaging 9.4 pts/8.0 rebs in 07-08 compared to 12.2/8.7 in 06-07), their big guy in the middle. And Taj is not the only returning TrOJie whose game has suffered in the presence of OJ2 (at least his jaw is intact, so he has that going for him).
Some more numbers to consider. The TrOJans have a decent defense which allowed them to pull off moral victories against Kansas and Memphis. They lead the Pac-10 in FG pct defense holding their opponents at a .382 clip (UCLA is 5th at .404). They also lead the league in 3-point field goal pct defense (.308) (UCLA 4th at .319) and are second in the conference in blocked shots averaging 3.81 rejections a game. [See Pac-10 stats].
That said, they have some issues on offense. Serious issues. They are either dead last or second to last in scoring offense (2nd to last) and 3-point field goals made (4.88).
Despite having an athlete like Taj Gibson around, they can’t really rebound, as they are second to last in the conference in offensive rebounds (2nd to last) and in rebounding margin.
Oh, and they are not good at sharing the ball (gee, I wonder why) either, as they are dead last in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and second to last in assists.
So, with those numbers in mind, things stack up favorably for our Ben Ball warriors going into this Saturday’s game. And that is exactly where the problem lies. If our guys go into this game with a complacent mindset, they might just get burned like those Stanford teams against Lavin’s squad from those dark years.
There are not many good match-ups for Timmeh in this game. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a heavy dose of zone D from the TrOJans on Saturday as they try to go all out in stopping Love inside, daring us to settle for long jumpers. So, once again, we are going to need our guards – DC, Westbrook and Shipp – to be aggressive around the parameter. I’d look for them to slash inside, draw traffic, and find seams in the zone.
I’d also look for Love flashing to the high post. Now that he is starting to shoot his outside shots, you’d think the TrOJan defense will honor that shot, and it will allow him to find team-mates for easy scores. And I imagine Luc will get his opportunity to attack the zone by taking his guy on one-on-one dribble drives. The TrOjans will try desperately to keep Gibson out of foul trouble. I imagine Love will approach his match-up against him just like he did with the Lopez brothers, Cal's front-court, and the big men from the Washington schools this past week. He will go right at him.
On the defensive side, I won’t be surprised if Timmeh tries to spread out and have OJ chuck up 25-30 shots. We will probably throw the combination of Westbrook and Luc at him on defense, and I imagine those guys will give the usual heavy Ben Ball dose of double downs in the lowpost.
The guy that worries me is Dwight Lewis. OJ2, Jefferson, Gibson and Hackett get a lot of the attention. Lewis sometimes sneaks up on everyone, just as he did against Washington. He has a pretty decent outside shot and he can also take it to the rack. So Shipp and co will have to keen an eye on him.
Ben Ball warriors are confident going into every game. I imagine this Saturday will be no different. And I am assuming Coach Howland and his staff will be in their ears all week about Saturday being a potential trap game. So, hopefully, they come out with the same intensity this Saturday they showed against Washington State. Here is to our warriors maintaining the proper world order against JustSC this Saturday.