Ben Ball Gameday Roundup: End Of Out Of Conference Season

Nelson explaining to his team-mates: in Ben Ball it all STARTS WITH DEFENSE. Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

Switching over to hoops since we have a game early this afternoon. I will not be around to take in our last out of conference action against Delaware State. The 4-5 Hornets team is coming off a 44-60 loss against (no. 18) Ohio State Buckeyes. The game should present the Bruins a much needed opportunity to build some measure of momentum heading into the conference season.

This obviously has been the most difficult start for the UCLA basketball program since Howland's first season at UCLA. While our last win against Colorado State provided our Bruins some encouraging signs to build on, it is not clear to me whether the team is ready to make a credible run rest of the season. Much will depend on our guys ability to put together consistent defensive performance like they did during those last 11 mins against the Rams.

As mentioned up top the Hornets are coming off a loss against Ohio State. It was their 4th straight loss of the season and it sounds like they tried to sloooooow the game down out in Columbus to stall the Buckeyes:

"The only plan we had was to limit their possessions and keep them out of transition, and I thought for the most part our kids did that. We don't have the talent that they have."

It was as close to a stall game as you'll find during the era of the shot clock. Ohio State was held to a season-low in points despite coming in 10th nationally (84.7 per game).

"To hold them to 60 points is obviously a success for us," Jackson said. "We had a plan to come in and shorten the game and keep them on the defensive end as much as possible. The only chance we had was to limit possessions and take them out of areas that they like to operate."

I am guessing we are going to see more of the same from them today as they will try to slow the game down again to frustrate the Bruins into committing careless turnovers and play out of control on the defensive end.

I imagine Coach Howland and his staff have already conveyed the message to Lee and Anderson about how they cannot be as sloppy and careless with the ball like they were in their last outing (when they committed 11 turnovers) and how they will need to kickstart the Bruin offense by generating pressure on the defensive end. More after the jump.

The Hornets are lead in scoring by Marcus Neal, who averages 13 points a game and Frisco Sandidge who leads the team with 6.4 rebounds per game. Sandidge is also second in the scoring department as he averages about 12 points per game. More on those guys via BuckeyeGrove.com:

- Despite some recent struggles, Delaware State has played solid defense all season and that can be reflected in the stats. So far this year, DSU has only allowed opposing teams to score 58.8 points per game, which is the nation's 26th best scoring defense. The Hornets also rank pretty high in turnover margin (22nd with +4.8) and steals (15th 10.0).

- Delaware State has typically played very well in the 10 years current head coach Greg Jackson has been the head coach. Under Jackson, DSU has posted a 74-22 record at home in Memorial Hall. So far this season, the Hornets are 4-1 on their home court. Heading into the Ohio State game, Jackson has an overall record of 311-220 in his career.

- In the 2009-10 MEAC Preseason Poll Delaware State was selected to finish ninth this season after receiving only 134 total votes. Morgan State, South Carolina State, and Norfolk State were selected to finish in the top three, respectively. The league's head coaches and sports information directors vote in the poll.

- Delaware State starting guard Jay Threatt has been one of the best players in the country in steals this season. As of Dec. 13, Threatt was ranked No. 5 in the nation in steals with an average of four per game and had recorded 25 overall. Also, Threatt tied the school record for steals in a game Nov. 16 against Wilmington when he recorded nine.

The Hornets are now 0-4 on the road this season.This is just the 3rd meeting between the Hornets and UCLA with the Bruins leading the series 2-0 with both games being contested in Pauley Pavilion. UCLA posted a 56-37 victory in the last meeting on Nov. 19, 2005. The Bruins also beat up the Hornets 109-67 in the first meeting on Dec. 2, 1998.

I think for us the most important issue heading into this game will be to closely monitor the play of Anderson. I didn't get to watch our last game (I am not going to qualify tracking the game via choppy online feed as "watching") but it sounds like Anderson (and Dragovic) were really struggling early on defensively. It didn't help that Roll was suffering from the flu, so his defense in the backcourt was nothing to write home about either.

It will be very important for Anderson to put together a decent defensive outing while play solid and smart on the offensive end. Here is what he (and Lee) had to say following our win against Colorado State:

The much-maligned point guard, who came into the game averaging just 5.8 points per game and 3.8assists on 38 percent shooting, had 12 points, seven assists and four rebounds in the win.

"I felt a lot more comfortable out there," Anderson said. "I'm starting to feel more comfortable every game. I was just trying to do my thing, and that happened. Right now is the best time for me to come out and play as confident as I can and try to put pressure on other guards."

Forget other guards. Anderson would best serve the team by taking some pressure off his Bruins backcourt mates. Sophomore Malcolm Lee and senior Michael Roll are shouldering the scoring burden - averaging 15.2 and 14.2 points per game, respectively - while playing the most minutes on the team. Lee played 39 minutes against the Rams andscored 16 points, a far cry from his 29-point outburst in an 84-73 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday.

"The more players get the scoring opportunities, the more their confidence will come up," Lee said.

"That's going to help in game situations like this. If they're not scoring, they're hesitant to take a clutch shot."

I just hope Lee and his team-mates continue to remind themselves that they can get themselves their scoring opportunities and build up their confidence by playing DEFENSE.

The tip off is scheduled for 1:00 pm PST. I will be on air at the time. However, a game thread will go up to follow along the action as much as possible via online. Enjoy your Sunday.

GO BRUINS.

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