Ben Ball News & Notes

Diane Pucin has a nice writeup on James Keefe in today’s LA Times:

In a matter of months, Keefe went from feeling bold anticipation for a season he had strenuously prepared for, to accepting that he wouldn't play in a game after undergoing shoulder surgery last August.

And now he has adjusted again. As sixth-ranked UCLA prepares to play USC on Sunday at the Galen Center, Keefe is locating, bit by bit, the pieces of his game shattered Aug. 10 when he was diagnosed with a torn labrum.

After being told he would redshirt, spending the season working to get back to where he was 100% physically, Keefe was brought back to active status last month after teammate Michael Roll reinjured a foot.

Keefe is averaging 2.1 points and 2.0 rebounds in 11.4 minutes a game in 11 games. Modest numbers without any spectacular plays to mark his contributions.

But a three-point basket against Washington State last week, shot with a quick release and some swagger, earned a positive comment from Bruins Coach Ben Howland.

And the way Keefe is playing defense with his upper body, creating space by moving his shoulders instead of placing his hands on an opponent's back and getting a foul call earned notice from teammate Kevin Love.

It has been baby steps for Keefe since his first game, Jan. 3 at Stanford, when he played four minutes and didn't score.

Relocating his instincts for the finer points -- where to cut, where to pass, when to crash the boards, when to double team on defense -- has been as difficult as rebuilding his physical strength.

"When you are taken away from the court for four months," Keefe said, "you get a little shaky and iffy in a lot of areas. Every day the game feels a little better for me, a little more familiar. This season has taken so many turns and nothing has gone the way we planned."
I have followed Keefe’s career closely enough to remain convinced after all is said and done he is going to leave Westwood as a solid player. I still remember watching Keefe in the McDonald’s AA game. While rest of his peers were jacking up 3 pointers, throwing down dunks to get into WWL highlights, Keefe was going about his business, setting picks, screens playing within the team game in an All Star game. He has the perfect mentality to become a very good player by his 4th year in Coach Howland’s program.

There is no question Keefe (along with all of his team-mates) had an awful game last weekend. But to use that one game as a sign that he hasn’t contributed at all this season is just being insincere and shortsighted.

As mentioned above Keefe played a significant role in our huge win against Washington State. And ever since he came back he has done all the little things to slowly increase his mins in the rotation. He and his team-mates had a setback this past Sunday. They will just have to battle through and try to snap out of it this weekend.

And that brings me to Love’s comments in Perelman’s blog. As mentioned yesterday Love’s followup comments to his post Washington silly blowup was encouraging. We have more from Perelman:
"I know I was [frustrated about not getting the ball more] after the game, but I was just frustrated with the loss itself. But I’m never a selfish person, never a selfish guy. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. We’re going to go about the game the way Coach wants it to happen. Hopefully, we’ll bounce back on Sunday against SC.

"You never want to show body posture and wave your hands or anything like that because it’s almost like showing up a teammate. You never want to do that. If you’re getting frustrated, you can always take it out on the offensive or defensive boards.

"It was a war out there. That’s just something we just really had to game-plan for. We knew they were going to be physical and we knew they were going to have a lot of calls go their way and they out-toughed us a little bit."
Love and his team-mates will have to make some adjustments be ready for more physicality this Sunday when they are going to go up against the frontline of Jefferson and Gibson. I think the thing to keep in mind is not just getting Love more shots but getting him more touches so that the offense goes through him. And to get that happen it’s not just up to Love’s team-mates to find him, but also up to Love to find ways to get more open/space from his defenders.

Also Love and his team-mates will need to do a better job on defense because it hasn’t been great. From Dohn:
UCLA ranks fifth in the Pac-10 in defensive field goal percentage, allowing conference opponents to make 45.1percent of its shots. A year ago, UCLA's opponents shot 44 percent from the field as the Bruins won the league title.

UCLA's past three opponents combined to shoot 47.7percent from the field, led by Washington State's 52.3 percent.

"It is embarrassing," Collison said. "Since I've been here, we've been all defense, we've been doing a good job on the defensive end. When a team does shoot that high of a percentage, it's going to be real hard to win games like that."
Yeap. In previous years when our offense wasn’t clicking we could always rely on our defense to get things going. That hasn’t been happening in some recent games. Lot of it as we have discussed before goes to the absence of Luc. However, that doesn’t excuse the entire team. Our guards including DC have to much better job of playing on ball defense, and our bigs including Love, Keefe et al have to do a better job of rotating over to their man.

Lastly, let’s try to close the loop on all the furor over the classless play of Tim Morris and the subsequent tom foolery by the Pac-10 officials and Lorenzo Romar. From the Perelman post linked above here are AA2’s latest comments:
Bruin forward Alfred Aboya was asked, of course, about the incident where Washington guard Tim Morris threw the ball off of Aboya’s face not to commit a turnover in the final minute of Sunday’s game. Asked if he wanted to punch Morris, Aboya joked, "It was painful, so I had to recover from that first.

"We had 47 seconds left in the game and until the clock goes off, the game isn’t over, so after that I just had to go back at it to try to compete and get the win, but it didn’t happen. At the end of the game when both teams were shaking hands, he said ‘I’m sorry about that’ and that was it."

He was also quite philosophical about the play. "When something happens to you, you can’t always react right away because it might lead you to a wrong decision. So you have to take a step back.

"So I don’t think it was a deliberate situation. He was trying to inbound the ball still and I was on his grille and he had no space except to throw off of me. Unfortunately, he hit me in the face -– not a good area -– but I think his intention was to avoid a 5-second count."
Just another graceful warrior in Coach Howland’s program. I know it has been mentioned multiple times already. But I will note AA2’s restraint is more than remarkable. I am sure lot of it has to do with the way Coach Howland has molded these kids in his program. But that said we have to give individual credit to AA2. Simply remarkable.

Now AA2 has put this thing behind him. But still … if we get another shot against Washington in the tourney, we hope there is a HUGE Bruin turnout at Staples to make lives interesting for Lorenzo Romar. And by "interesting" I mean creative noise, chants, signs the Den showed us during the Arizona game at Pauley. And I sure hope we are not emptying our bench if we are up big in the second half. We need pound them from tip-off to final whistle.

That’s the last thing I will note on the Morris thuggery. We need to put our focus on Sunday and figure out how we can regain the momentum in our bid to hold on to the Pac-10.

GO BRUINS.
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