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Premium Ducks

The Bruins are getting ready to play yet another huge game this afternoon. Dohn has a very interesting write up on the Ben Ball warriors today, discussing the 14-0 start, which is closing in on the best start by a UCLA basketball team in three decades. Thankfully, Coach Howland and his players are not thinking about the streak and the number 1 ranking. How are they doing it? How are they staying even keeled and keeping things in perspective? Here is Dohn:

A win against the Ducks would give UCLA its best start since 1972-73, the last of Wooden's undefeated teams.

However, this is where losing in last season's national title game helps the current squad. Not only do players say they don't care about the No. 1 ranking, but many admit to not even feelings like they are on a two-month winning streak.

"We never really talk about it," Bruins sophomore wing Josh Shipp said. "We come out and play every game. It's not like we have it written on the board, `We're 14-0 and No. 1 in the country.' We try to stay away from all the distractions."

The Bruins, instead, look at the season being broken into small segments, with the three-game Maui Invitational one part, the non-conference slate being another piece and the Pac-10 schedule broken into weekend clusters.

"We understand that we're (14-0), but given the way coach Howland teaches us, we don't really look that far back," UCLA leading scorer Arron Afflalo said. "I feel like we're 1-0 right now (after beating Oregon State on Thursday). I feel like this is a weekend stretch for us, more so than 14 wins. At the end I feel like we'll be 2-0, and then start again the next week."

One thing working in UCLA's favor is effort.

The Bruins consistently play harder not to mention tougher than nearly every opponent, which is something Kent is trying to make his squad believe.

"They're probably the hardest-working team in college basketball," Kent said. "They're at an intensity level right now that if you don't work, if you can't get up to play these types of games in this environment, there's something wrong with you."

Among other factors UCLA must deal with is that of motivation, as every opponent is gunning for the top-ranked team, and therefore gets a premium effort.
And Bruins are going to get the Ducks' premium effort this afternoon. They are going to be fired up to atone for their let down game from Thursday night.

The guy who will lead the Ducks is their senior point guard Arron Brooks. BBR has the preview, which includes this on the key matchup in this afternoon's showdown:
The Ducks are led by Aaron Brooks (Sr, 6'0, 165) who is having the best year of his collegiate career.  He is averaging 16.5 points and 4.8 assists while shooting  44.9% from the field and 31.1% on three-pointers.

The senior point-guard takes good care of the ball and usually makes the right decision with it although his shot selection could improve. Nonetheless, Brooks has a solid 1.50 assist-to-turnover ratio.  He is also doing it on the defensive end using his quickness and experience, he averages 1.6 steals a game.

Once considered by many a rising star after his sophomore season, Brooks had an extremely difficult junior year on and off the court in which all his statistical numbers tumbled.  It appears he's recovered and is looking to make a statement in his final collegiate year.

So far, he's scored over 15 points in all but two games this season including two 30 point performances while recording career highs in assists and field goal percentage.

If his 31 point outburst against USC is any indication, Brooks will present UCLA's Darren Collison with one of his toughest tests of the season.  Although not as quick as Collison, Brooks has excellent speed, handles the ball well, and has more experience.  Collison did not have a good first road game against Oregon State, it will be interesting how he bounces back in this game.
Interesting indeed.

Oregon's McArthur Court has historically been a very difficult venue for UCLA basketball team dating back to the Wooden era. Those of you who were in Westwood during 1995 may remember how we lost against the Ducks in our only road loss that season (I still have that image of Tyus and Ed's pissed off looks when Ducks fans were rushing the court). But don't sweat all that too much. As Dohn mentioned in his write up today, our Bruins may be the toughest team in terms of mental mindset in the Pac-10 if not the country.

Elsewhere, here is Pucin's write up, which mentions AA2 having a precautionary MRI (Howland expects him to fine) and the status of Malik Hairston, which is uncertain as of right now.

Anyways, with or without Hairston, the Bruins are going to get a Ducks team giving their all, bring their premium effort, their A game. But as long as they are focused, and bring that defensive intensity, we will be all right.

We will have our Ben Ball game thread up in a bit.