Ben Ball Game Day Roundup: Underdog Saturday

Just in case anyone had forgotten Telemachus has posted what transpired in Seattle last year. I will not add any more commentary to his post because the video pretty much speaks for itself. I will also not rehash how we haven't won a game there since 2004 since it is being reported in detail (for some reason the local beat reporters really relish rehashing the  UCLA losses (since there isn't a lot to chose from I guess) from last few seasons) in the LA Times and the LA Daily News. Instead let's focus on the Washington team, which is now currently tied for the Pac-10 lead with UCLA.

Washington has a some very talented athletes who will provide matchup issues for our Bruins. From the LA Times:

Start with the 6-foot-7, 255-pound Brockman, a senior who scores 15.1 points a game and ranks among the nation's best rebounders with an average of 10.8.

"He's an absolute animal on the glass," Howland said. "He's just so strong and relentless."

Justin Dentmon and Quincy Pondexter are scoring in double figures, and Matt Bryan-Amaning provides a lift off the bench. But perhaps the biggest difference from last season's 16-17 Washington team is the addition of guard Isaiah Thomas, the Pac-10's top freshman in scoring and assists.

With this blend of veterans and a newcomer, the Huskies have matured in recent weeks, Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar said.

"We're a much more mentally tough team than we have been," he said. "We're a better defensive team than we've been."

Dentmon absolutely terrorized DC last year (who I will get into a little more below). Pondexter can be a very difficult matchup when he gets hot. No doubt JS will get the assignement to defend Pondexter but I would love to see Howland use ML a lot this afternoon to guard him as well. Pondexter is a very athletic ball player but he is not the most accurate three point shooter. Yet as I said above when he gets in a rhythm (kind of like JS) he can be deadly.

I know AA2 wants revenge for what took place last year (and how can we blame him). He needs to get that revenge by being extremely physical around the rim. If he gets point blan opportunies this afternoon he will have to throw them down instead of just trying to laying it in.  It is going to be imperative for AA2, DG, JK and ND to give everything they have to go after lose balls and securing rebounds on the defensive side. Coach Howland is expecting everyone to chip in to offset UDub's rebounding capabilities:

With Washington's up-tempo offense and all-out assault on the glass, the Bruins will need to control the tempo. That means trying to stay close in the rebound category.

Howland said that Jrue Holiday and Josh Shipp, both of whom play on the wing, must shoulder a larger part of the workload.

"All five guys are going to have to rebound," he said.

In addition to holding our own in the rebounding department, we will need a big game out of DC. Seattle has been nothing short of a nightmare for our senior pg:

"Every game we played at Washington, the game before was bigger, so it was hard to get up for that game," Collison said. "I remember when we played Washington State two years ago, it was for the Pac-10 championship. And last year it was the same thing because Washington State was highly ranked."

A year ago, the Bruins were ranked No. 2 when taking on the Huskies, but unraveled in arguably their worst performance of the season. Collison was 1of8 from the field and scored a career-low three points. He also turned the ball over eight times as Huskies guard Justin Dentmon, now a senior, dominated the matchup.

And that followed the 2007 performance against Washington, in which Collison was 2 for 15 from the field.

"It's going to be a huge game," Collison said. "Last year, my sophomore year, I didn't play well, personally. I remember that."

I think the key for DC will be to be himself and trust in his abilities. There is no doubt in my mind he is the best pg in the country and as far I am concerned he has nothing to prove to us. There is no need for him to force the issue. However, he is the guy that needs to take all the key shots when the game is on the line late in second half. The backcourt matchup just might decide this game today. If DC and JH can outsmart Dentmon/Thomas, Bruins will have a great shot.

More on keys to today's game from Bob Condotta in the Seattle Times:

1, Darren Collison --- You'd never know the UCLA senior point guard an All-American based on how he's played at Hec Ed in his career. Here are his combined totals in three UCLA losses --- 5-27 shooting, 14 points, 13 turnovers. Odds say he's due for a good game in Seattle --- I don't think it's really a Husky thing because he's played all right against UW in Pauley. But he'll have to shake off the ghosts of Hec Ed -- he was 2-15 here last season. Will UW put Justin Holiday on him at some point tomorrow?

2, Rebounding --- UCLA was a better rebounding team than UW a year ago. But now without Kevin Love, the Bruins have dropped off, ranking third in the Pac-10 at plus-4.7 per game opposed to UW's plus-11.1. UCLA coach Ben Howland said today that the key for his team will be "can we keep them off the glass enough to give us a chance'' and that "for us to win, all five guys are going to have to rebound on every possession when they shoot the ball.''

3, Three-point shooting --- Without Love and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Bruins are shooting threes at a much-higher clip this year. Last year, UCLA made 5.4 per game; this year, 7.6. UW is making just 4.3 but is hitting 37 percent in Pac-10 play to just 30.6 for opponents. UCLA, though, has a varied outside attack with five players who shoot them regularly hitting 32 percent of better.

4, Holiday vs. Holiday --- An interesting subplot is Justin Holiday going up against Jrue Holiday for the first time in their college careers, and apparently first time ever in an organized game. More specifically, however, you wonder if Jrue --- who many thought would be a bigger offensive contributor than he has been to date --- might turn it on in the presence of his family. Jrue Holiday has just 14 points in the last three games.

5, Hec Ed --- As mentioned earlier, UCLA has lost four in a row to UW in Seattle. But the Bruins have a history of struggling here having lost eight times to UW here (one game came at KeyArena) since 1998. Often, this has been the back end of a road trip with UCLA having won two nights earlier in Pullman, the Bruins a few times seeming to play with heavy legs.But a fired-up crowd awaits again tomorrow hoping to keep the Hec Ed Hex intact.

Given the history in this series and the challenges posed by the game atmosphere in Seattle, Huskies will be the favorites to win this game today. Arguably this is the only second time this year Ben Ball warriors have been underdogs going into a game (Texas being the other one). Hopefully they come out with the same fire and intensity they showed in intensity. If they can improve upon the defensive effort they showed in the game, stay patient on offense, I think we will have a chance to pull out a huge win this afternoon.

The game tips off around 1 pm PST. We will have the game thread up about an hour before the tip off. Should be fun because remember we have got nothing to lose.

GO BRUINS.

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