Ben Ball warriors are back in action tomorrow night when they take on DePaul Blue Demons in the 2008 John Wooden Classic. DePaul used to be a great program built by legendary coach Ray Mayer. The program from Big East has fallen on hard times in recent years as they limp into this game with a record of 4-2 with recent losses against a rebuilding Cal program and Morgan State.
DePaul has struggled mightily on the offensive end. The team is averaging just 66.6 points on 37.8% field goal shooting and knocking down a mere 28% on three-pointers.
Despite a big starting frontline, which includes two 6'10 players, the Blue Demons are getting outrebounded by a margin of 3.1 rebounds a game.
Defensively, DePaul is allowing opponents to shoot 42.1% and score 68.3 point per game. The team plays both a man-to-man and zone defense. With some of the struggles UCLA has had against the zone, they should expect to see plenty of zone defense from the Blue Demons.
DePaul is led on offense by forward Dar Tucker (6'4, 210, So). The sophomore is averaging 20.3 points a game but hasn't been efficient, hitting on just 36.9% from the floor and a poor 28.6% on three-pointers. He's also the team's second best rebounder at 7.0 a game.
A quick and muscular player who can shoot and drive effectively to the basket, Tucker can be a tough player to stop. He takes over 25% of the team's shot attempts. Stop Tucker and you stop the Blue Demon offense.
It will be up to JH to stop Tucker. JH struggled in his last national tv appearance guarding against Texas superstar A.J. Abrams. However, DC is not too worried about his freshman team-mates’ ability to emerge as the stopper (in the mold of AA and RW) in this year’s edition of Ben Ball warriors:
"Jrue, he looks up to the challenge. He doesn't back down," Collison said.
Holiday and the Bruins had a difficult time guarding A.J. Abrams, who scored 31 points for Texas last week. But Collison doesn't believe that all came on Holiday's watch.
"You need a team defense to guard him, it's not just one player," Collison said. "It's not like he was just taking him off the dribble. He's constantly coming off screens. He needs other guys to help. That wasn't Jrue's fault. That was the team's fault. I thought we could've done a better job stopping him.
As we have preached all along these first weeks, we will have to be patient with JH. I think he will be up to the challenge tomorrow afternoon against Tucker. Hopefully the thousands of Bruin fans who will take over Honda Center will fire him up.
In addition to Tucker the Blue Demons have some big guys up front:
Along the frontline, DePaul starts twin towers, Mac Koshwal (6'10, 240, So) and Matija Poscic (6'10, 235, Sr).
Koshwal is an effective low post scorer and the team's best rebounder. He's averaging 12.8 points on 55.6% shooting and 10.8 rebounds. Koshwal is a wide body and needs to be kept off the boards. Alfred Aboya will get the starting defensive assignment.
Poscic is a solid player inside who is averaging 6.1 points and 6.0 rebounds in 24.9 minutes a game.
JK will get the defensive assignment against Poscic. This week Howland noted how Keefe has been shooting with more confidence in last few games:
``I'm sure he's more confident from the standpoint he's healthy,'' Howland said. ``He had a whole summer. He worked hard. I thought the last two games his confidence is really starting to build, especially with his shot. He's shooting the ball with much more quickness and taking the open shot when it's there and not thinking about it and knocking it down. He made some early shots against Northridge and Texas.''
Now if JK can get his FT shooting issues solved, he is going to be good to go. I think it will be interesting to how Howland continues to allocate the mins between JK and ND. JK is averaging about 21.1 mins per game while ND is getting 17.5. Although ND is slightly outscoring JK by 5.5 to 5.1, from what I am seeing JK provides a better overall package on both sides of the court. I also think JK plays within the offense lot more taking his shots within the flow of the game. So may be its not a bad idea if CBH continues to bump up JK’s mins at the expense of ND’s in more of 65-35 split.
Speaking of shooters, CBH wants DC to fire more and his team to look for more opportunities to set up the senior super star:
Collison is averaging 10 field-goal attempts per game, second on the team behind Josh Shipp. Collison took just one shot in the first half against Cal State Northridge on Sunday.
Collison has said he believes his priority is to look to get everyone else involved.
"I beg to differ. I think he looks to score quite a bit," Howland said. "We've got to do a better job of getting him more looks within our offense. I don't think Darren's ever hesitated to shoot first. I think he's a shoot-first player."
We’ve got an idea coach! Let JH run the point!!
The tip off is scheduled for 4 pm PST tomorrow and its being broadcast locally on KCAL, Channel 9. I am sure it’s on some cable channel here on the East Coast but I have no idea on what. I will try to find out by tomorrow but if any of you already know what channel it is going to be shown in DC or elsewhere around the East Coast, Midwest etc, let us know in the comment threads.