Our friends over at Rakes Of Mallow are still too euphoric about their hiring of new football coach. So, can't blame them for not thinking too much about the 9-2 Fighting Irish's upcoming (gulp) nationally televised non conference game against our 3-6 Bruins. May be they will get fired up about it before Saturday but they are not yet.
We can expect the Irish hoops team to be fired up on Saturday because they are going to want revenge for what we did them to Pauley last year drubbing them by a score of 89-63. They have a record of 9-2 but they are coming into this game following a 2 point loss against LMU (may be they were already looking ahead to UCLA?). Their other loss this season came against in a 15 point defeat against North Western. The best team the Irish has beaten this year is St. Louis in the third-place game of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
Obviously the center of attention on Saturday will be Luke Harangody. It will be interesting to see how the Bruins can defend him at Joyce Center. Perhaps they can use the same formula that allowed Nelson to contain Aldrich at Pauley. Then again, may be it's too much to ask our freshmen to show the kind of poise and maturity needed to get a win in a fired up, hostile, roald enviroment. Besdes Harangody, 5-11 guard Tory Jackson is the other dependable option returining from last season. Currently their rotation looks like this:
Ben Hansbrough, was hobbled a bit early in the season by a sprained right ankle, but he is rounding into form. He has been in double figures from the scoring line last 5 games and almost shooting 50 percent from the 3 point line.
Meanwhile, junior forward Tim Abromaitis, who played rarely as a freshman and missed the entire 2007-08 season, has emerged as the second leading scorer in the team as he begin this year with seven straight game in double figures. So, in other words, with injury to Keefe, Coach Howland is going to have his hands full dealing with the Irish front court. More on that after the jump.Well here is the latest on Keefe. He is out at least 2-3 weeks with a dislocated shouler. It was the same shoulder that kept him out with a huge chunk of the season two years ago with a torn labrium. Thankfully though per Jon Gold the xrays this time were negative. I have to say again Keefe was an absolute warrior on Saturday. He got off to such a great start on the defensive end. When he got hurt it was pretty amazing to see how composed he was in dealing with the pain (when it was clear on camera (and to those who were at Pauley) what was happening to him). If there is a kid who deserves a happy ending at UCLA, who has done everything Coach Howland has asked him to do over the years without complaining one bit, it's James Keefe. I hope he can get fully healthy and can make a return to make some meaningful contributions before he is done.
Now without Keefe Bruins are going to be short handed against Harangody and Abromaitis in the front court. It will be all about playing team defense:
The 6-foot-8, 246-pound Harangody is averaging 24.6 points and 10.1 rebounds.
"He's a beast," UCLA guard Michael Roll said. "It's going to be a team defense."
That means double-teams, help-side defense and players scrambling to box out.
UCLA Coach Ben Howland plans to throw a bench-full of players at Harangody, including Nikola Dragovic, Reeves Nelson, J'mison Morgan and perhaps Brendan Lane.
"Obviously losing James is really, really a tough deal for us," Howland said.
Well perhaps one guy who might be ready to step a little more will be freshman point-forward Honeycutt. Tyler is feeling pretty good after his effortless performance on Saturday. As poncho fanshotted this is what TH had to say about starting off 3-6:
"It's been real hard. I didn't expect this at all when I came here. I knew we had a tough schedule, but I thought it'd be competitive, close games. It's kind of helped us actually, kind of set us in our place. Let us know we're not all that and still have room to improve."
I was even more encouraged by this:
"I'm still getting back into it. Obviously I've only had about three practices. Eventually it will come along. I can improve on a lot. Defense, on-ball defense. I'm not used to turning the ball over that much.
Having him talk about the need to cut down on TOs and improving his "on-ball defense" is music to my ears. Honeycutt is not the only underclassmen excited about building on Tuesday's confidence gaining blowout win:
"A win against anybody right now makes a difference," point guard Jerime Anderson said. "It helps our confidence a little bit. It helps us feel better about ourselves.
"We've been working hard. That's one thing you can't take away from us. It just hasn't been transferring into games. The main thing for us was to really work hard, and it finally transferred to a game. I think we should try and build from that win."
All of the comments from this week has been encouraging. However, right now for me the key is for these guys to maintain their composure when they are on the road this Saturday. I still can't take too much from the blowout win against a cupcake team on Tuesday night. I think that effort will win something if they can replicate it again on national TV by slugging it out with what I expect to be a hungry and angry Irish team on both ends of the court.
It means the Bruins will have to come into that game with a defensive mindset. They will have to think about getting their points by generating suffocating defensive pressure, going after lose balls and then playing smart ball on the offensive end. It will mean not jacking up hurried three pointers (and you know who I am especially thinking about here) and looking for that extra pass down low to find the team-mate with easiest shot. If the Bruins can come out and give another all out effort with intensity and passion, it might just might set them up to finish rest of the non-conference season in a positive note.