It’s kind of funny. We have heard a lot about how we are going through a rebuilding season this year in Westwood. Yet our team finds itself in pretty much the same situation it found itself after 5 games during last year’s Pac-10 season. It was last year Bruins were heading into a weekend Pauley game against JustSC after destroying a solid Washington State team running their conference record to 4-0. Instead of taking control of the conference by beating Southern Cal, we got flummoxed on our own floor while losing LRMAM to injury. Amidst all the typical concern trolling from the beat reporters and poser fans, Bruins had to go up to Pacific Northwest taking on Oregon in one of the toughest venues in the conference without LRMAM. Well we all know what transpired on Mac Court. Epic performances from KL, DC and others saves the day and our warriors were off to another streak.
One year later Bruins find themselves in pretty much the same situation going up against a solid (and IMHO much better coached) Washington State team, which will be hungry and desperate its first victory against UCLA since 1992-93 season. Just how will the Bruin respond? Well, if they want to repeat last year’s history, they will have to focus on two solid players leading the way for Tony Bennett’s Cougars:
Senior guard Taylor Rochestie, who struggled early this season without departed backcourt mates Kyle Weaver and Derrick Low, has hit his stride. He scored 44 points in the two victories, including a career-best 30 at Oregon, where he sank all 16 of his free throws.
When Rochestie is at his best, he's creative and smart, an understated talent who understands what his team needs from him.
Likewise, senior center Aron Baynes got going in the right direction, with his first two double-doubles of the season. He averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds for the weekend, and is so big (6-foot-10, 270 pounds) that when he's playing well, he's a load for opposing defenses.
Which brings us to what the Cougars must always do to be successful -- defend.
They did that in both games, limiting Oregon State to 35.3 percent shooting in a 61-57 overtime victory, then holding the explosive Ducks to 38.9-percent shooting.
I am sure the Cougars were taking notes from last Saturday. But it will be interesting to see if they deviate from their typical game plan which depends on playing a very solid man to man defense. The key for Bruins will be to defend Rochestie who has been on fire. The folks at Coug Center have been going crazy this week crusading for Rochestie as the Pac-10 player of the week.
I imagine DC, JH and rest of our guards have been well drilled this week on studying the moves of the Wazzu floor general. I think the more interesting matchup will be the one between AA2 and Baynes. Baynes is a pretty skilled player downlow who is also a strong rebounder. AA2 and DG will have their work cut against the Aussie to make sure the Cougs are not getting any second or third opportunities.
CBH is pretty concerned with Baynes:
Baynes is of particular concern to Howland, who called him "a problem matchup." At 6 feet 10, he is averaging 11.7 points and 6.8 rebounds.
"He's always important to us if we can work to get him some touches," Bennett said.
Usual Starters -- F DeAngelo Casto, C Aron Baynes, G Marcus Capers, G Klay Thompson, G Taylor Rochestie. Key Subs -- G Nikola Koprivica; F Caleb Forrest; F Daven Harmeling
Nuss at Cougar Center prefers Capers and Harmeling as starters:
I love the energy Capers brings to the floor, and he seemed to handle the starting assignment very well on Saturday. While he occasionally botches a defensive assignment, his length and athleticism should be a real asset against a perimeter oriented team such as UCLA -- shooting a 3-pointer over Capers isn't the same as shooting a 3-pointer over Koprivica. And he also gives the Cougs' another good ballhandler against UCLA's defensive pressure.
I like Harmeling in this game because his 3-point shot is something that we simply must get back on track, and playing with the first unit is the best way to get him some shots. Plus, he's much less likely to be a defensive liability against UCLA, which, much like the Cougs, generally features only one post player on offense -- and Alfred Aboya isn't really a true post player. Besides, if Capers in the lineup, his defensive rebounding ability (16.1 DR%) more than makes up for the defensive rebounding liability of Harmeling (7.7 DR%), who actually contributes on the glass more than people realize with sound box-outs.
This leaves Casto, Koprivica and Forrest to come of the bench. I love Casto giving an infusion of energy when needed, I like Forrest to hold down the fort for 15-20 minutes, and I'm OK with Koprivica playing 10 minutes. But this smacks of the kind of game where Nik could really get abused.
Of course, this is all dependent on how the officials decide they're going to officiate two physical teams
Well we all know how predictable the SPTRs are in this conference.
I think the key again for our Bruins will be to show the same patience and disciplined they showed out in Pauley East. If I were them I would pretty much take into account they will have to battled through some horrific SPTRing. The focus for our guys will be to get off to a good start by playing our brand of lock down defense and sticking with our game plan on offense. This means our guards and wings will have to attack the rim every chance they get and not settle for jump shots. Moreover, as mentioned above they can’t afford to be tentative around the rim and everyone in this team has to show the same ferociousness we have gotten accustomed to from AA2.
Here is to history repeating tonight in Pullman.