UCLA at ASU Preview: Split Time

We have to win at Arizona State.  As Achilles pointed out, Arizona was going to be very difficult but ASU is a must win.  A split this week was the idea to keep to the goal of the tourney.  On the flipside, with only one good win this season (against BYU), we cannot afford anymore bad losses, such as to last place Arizona State. 

But before the preview, it is interesting what CBH is promoting as the big problem from the Arizona loss:

"You could see that some of the players were affected by the crowd," Howland said. "And it happened to more than one of our players, which is unfortunate at this point in the season. You’d think we’d be over that by now because it happens wherever you. That wasn’t good."

Of particular concern was when Lazeric Jones lost his composure and threw an elbow at Arizona guard Kyle Fogg out of frustration after getting called for a foul in the second half. Jones, a team captain, received a technical foul that gave Arizona momentum UCLA couldn't overcome.

"I told him last night, there is a lot of responsibility heaped on your shoulders," Howland said. "You are a first-year Division I player playing here at a high level and I’m asking you to be a leader and be mature out there. I understand it’s a big responsibility, but we need him to do that."

While Jones who has been a leader of this team lost his cool, Reeves Nelson failed miserably in his attempt to be cool:

Howland called the comments from the crowd of 14,258 "some personal things directed at certain kids you would think would be inappropriate in some circles." Students taunted Reeves Nelson after the Bruins forward fouled out late in the game, calling out every step he took before yelling "Sit down!" as Nelson plopped down on the bench.

Nelson responded by repeatedly rising from his chair and then sitting back down, triggering a devilish smile on his face.

"I always get a kick out of whatever they try to do with their little chants," Nelson said after the game. "I was just messing with them a little bit."

Howland, whose team plays at Arizona State on Saturday, was not amused.

"It's a little kid's thing and he's reacting to that," Howland said. "It's like, come on. We're losing, just sit down and don't react to the crowd. . . . That's really immature."

I guess the good news unlike growing taller, you can grow up and it is one of the few benefits of aging.  Here's hoping the Bruins grow up sooner rather than later.

As far as ASU, the crowd there is much tamer and being in last place in the Pac-10 may help.  In other words, the crowd should not be that much of a factor tonight.

STRATEGY

One more quote from the Arizona game that I think is relevant.  What about the three guard lineup?  I usually don't like putting up quotes from players questioning the coach but I found this one fascinating

"Personally, I felt like we should have started smaller and have Reeves guarding Derrick and me play the four," Honeycutt said. "So we'll look at it and watch film and try to see what we need to work on."

Theories abound on why Tyler 'Toolbox" Honeycutt has looked like a tool much of the year.  One of the major conspiracy type theories out there is that Honeycutt is hurt/hurting and does not want to risk his body for the NBA.  Honeycutt wanting to play power forward (four) seems to debunk that theory. 

But it also goes to a couple other points.  While Tyler's shooting has suffered, his rebounding remains fairly solid at 7.9 rebounds a game.  His 11 defensive rebounds against Arizona (when Smith, Lane and Stover each got 1) are a big reason we beat a good rebounding Arizona team on the boards.  So while I don't like a player questioning his coach (don't want to make too much of it, it was toward the end of an interview and not the main point), I tend to agree with him. 

And it seems like a good time right now to play Honeycutt at 4 against ASU's starting 4 Rihards Kuksiks

"He's a matchup nightmare," Howland said. "[Nelson] has seen some guys like this, guys who play more like a three, but he is probably the ultimate one. He’s more of a three man than a four man in terms of offensively. The matchup for him in particular is really difficult."

CBH says Nelson will cover him.  Why not play TH on him, a three that can play four?  

And while CBH is quoted as saying the three guard lineup is best for offense, I don't think it is bad against a team like ASU for defense.  

Three other general points on ASU.

1.  ASU is mostly a zone team.   IMO, I am not sure that UCLA is hurt by this.  They have beat zones and M2M and they have played crap against both.  I think other factors are more important.  Like say how UCLA plays defense.

 2.  ASU loves to shoot threes.  Bruins need to do a much better job then they did against Arizona in that department.

3.  ASU likes to slow it down and eat up a lot of the shot clock.

THE MATCH-UPS

PG.  The Bruins need Lazeric Jones to get back to form.  He is arguably the key player and leader for this team on offense.  While Jerime Anderson has played much better on offense he continues to show how is a much better 2 guard.  For example, against Arizona and U$C (two games where Jones played less minutes and was ineffective in losses), Jerime had 22 points but only 2 assists to 5 turnovers.  We need Zeke.

The good news for UCLA is ASU's PG Jamelle McMillian does not like to shoot, scoring only 5.6 per game and shooting only 33% from the field.  Jones should be able to back off him and dare him to shoot outside.  McMillian likes to drive and dish and is good at with 4.2 assists per game to only 1.5 TOs.

SG. 

Ty Abbot is the leader of this ASU team.  He is also a good symbol for this team in that he shoots better from three (41 %) than 2 (40%).  This is a three point shooting team.  Obviously with Malcolm Lee on him, we should feel pretty good about this matchup.  Also, while Malcolm shot 1-5 from three with an airball, he did finish 6-12 with 16 points and a solid game on offense against AZ.  His offense continues to improve. 

SF

There is a chance that Lee would play against ASU's third guard Trent Lockett.  The 6'4" Lockett does a little bit of everything for ASU although he is not as good from three.  He is the second leading rebounder and likes to go to the basket.  Again, this seems to be a team that cries out for three guards.

I realize Tyler Honeycutt will likely match up with him.  This could be a problem as Honeycutt has had problems with smaller quicker people.  I really wish we would play Anderson more here.  While Anderson has improved on offense, I would argue his strongest improvement is on the defensive side.  He is no Malcolm Lee but he is among this teams better defenders.  I hope CBH plays him big minutes against ASU's three guards and let's him cover Abbot with Lee more on Lockett. 

I can hope, can't I?

PF

I discussed Kuskiks above.  I will add that his stats are deceiving as he has been shooter better of late from three.  As CBH said, this will be a tough matchup for Nelson.  On the other side Reeves should be able to score and, in another good reason to play Reeves more at 5, he has his career high in blocks against ASU last year as the Center.

CENTER
6'7" 210 pound Kevin Cain is the main ASU Center.   Have I mentioned yet we should go small?  Reeves is bigger and stronger than him.  So Smith is ____ (insert your own phrase for Smith's major size advantage).  Cain is strictly an inside player.  This is a matchup we should win.  However, I am not sure it is a good one for Stover or Lane.  ASU does have two true bigs (Pateev 7' from Russia, Bachynski 7'2" from Canada) that play but keep in mind that Cain gets most of the minutes.  

CONCLUSION

This is a game we should win.  ASU's best chance would be to get red hot from three and pack in the zone and hope we are cold from three and ineffective inside.  I don't think that will happen.  However, I am very interested in how we play this game.  Both the obvious in what will our attitude be and the less obvious, will CBH play Honeycutt at four?

I will close with a ridiculous quote but in my dreams we play D and run like this against ASU.  So well that Blake Arnet gets to play in garbage time.  Again from "coach" Honeycutt after the Stanford game on the lineup of Reeves (5), Tyler (4), Lee (3), Anderson (2), and Jones (1):

"We were able to be smaller out there and more athletic," Honeycutt said.

Honeycutt was quick to credit a big part of that athleticism to Nelson.

"Reeves can play like a guard," Honeycutt said.

"He’s able to run the break and make smart decisions, so you’ve really almost got five guards out there."

Tyler, leave the coaching to CBH.  (Although I hope you are right.)

Go Bruins!

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