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Ben Ball Gameday Roundup

We will get back to talking about you know who. Before we get to the dreaded world of Dorrellian football, we have a basketball game to talk about. The eyes of the Nation will be on Kansas City tonight, as our Ben Ball warriors take on the Maryland Terrapins in the semifinals of CBE classic. This will be the first big test for our team this year. And it will be a challenge considering we are going to be playing with only 8 scholarship players, a group that will not include a pre-season All American, who many consider to be the best pg in the nation in Darren Collison.

So, naturally, the beat writers are taking a closer look at our pgs today. Dohn has this on Russell Westbrook, who is taking on his toughest challenge since the game at Morgan Town in an emergency appearance for DC:

With Collison out, sophomore Russell Westbrook gets the brunt of attacking the Terrapins' full-court pressure when the teams meet today in the semifinals of the CBE Classic, and the experience gained should be fruitful as UCLA (3-0) makes its push for a 12th national title.

"The way he's playing now, it's going to help us in March if Darren gets in foul trouble," UCLA power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "Playing right now, he (Westbrook) kind of liberates himself, and it's early in the season. He won't feel stress, or anything like that."

By all accounts, Westbrook put in a lot of offseason work to improve his ballhandling, decision-making and jump-shooting.

"I thought he made the most improvement of any player on our team from the end of last season to the beginning of this season," Howland said. "He was in the men's gym - playing with the NBA guys, working on his game, lifting, being really, really committed - more than anybody in our program. That's a credit to him and how bad he wants it, and how important it is to him."
Coach Howland is going to able to see first hand how all that off season work paid off as RW will get to take on a tough Terp from Venezuela:
So Maryland (3-0) presents Westbrook's first challenge. The Terps are led by sophomore point guard Greivis Vasquez, who played for Venezuela during the 2007 FIBA Americas championship. He is averaging 16 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game.

"I know I'm prepared," Westbrook said. "I'm not worried about that."
I get the feeling neither is Coach Howland or rest of his team-mates. Interestingly, while our beat reporters are talking about the TO issues Russell had in his first game, Vasquez himself had his share of problems, turning the ball over 15 times in 3 games. Maryland as a team is averaging 21.3 TOs per game. More from the Washington Post:
Maryland has yet to see a consistent game from point guard Greivis Vasquez, who committed eight turnovers against Hampton and made only 2 of 10 shots against Northeastern. Vasquez said he is frustrated and called his shot selection "horrible."

"Maybe I need to trust my teammates more," Vasquez said. "I'm used to having D.J. [Strawberry] and Mike Jones. Now I have young players next to me. I don't want to make excuses. It was a lot easier" last season.

Williams has said Vasquez might feel he has to play at an unrealistic level after playing with professionals such as Kobe Bryant as a member of the Venezuelan national team this summer.

"My job is to make sure he [Vasquez] stays focused," Gist (Maryland senior forward James Gist - N) said. "Make sure he keeps his head on during the game, make sure he is still here with us and not going on his own. When he gets out of his little shell that he is in right now, he will definitely explode out."
So we will see how they handle the pressure of Ben Ball defense. For more on the matchups, here is Wong from Bruin Basketball Report:
James Gist (6'8, 233, Sr) is the Terrapins leading scorer (21.5) and rebounder (8.5), a tough low post scorer and offensive rebounder. The Bruins need to keep him in check and off the boards. He scored a career-high 27 points in his last game.

UCLA's Alfred Aboya will get the initial assignment Gist. Aboya has suffered from early foul trouble in past games, and with the Bruins shorthanded and facing a quality opponent they can not afford to lose Aboya to foul trouble.

Senior forward/center Bambale Osby (6'8, 250, Sr) recorded his first career double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds in his last game. He also had six blocked shots. In three games he is averaging 12.3 points and 8.3 rebounds although he's had problems holding onto the ball inside averaging 3.7 turnovers a game.

Love will get the match-up against Osby although Osby will probably get plenty of help from his swarming teammates on the defensive end. While Love is just a freshman, he has certainly not played like one in first three games.

At the small forward spot for the Terrapins is Landon Milbourne (6'7, 205, So) who is averaging 6.5 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Milbourne took over the starting spot when junior Dave Neal dislocated his shoulder in an earlier game.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will be match-up against Milbourne. Mbah a Moute is averaging 6.7 points and only 2.7 rebounds a contest. Spending most of his time on the wing this year has reduced his rebounding chances. Over the last two seasons, Mbah a Moute was the team's leading rebounder averaging 7.8 a game.

At shooting guard the Terrapins start Eric Hayes (6'3, 175, So). He is averaging 11.0 points and 4.3 assists while shooting 45% from the field. A good long range shooter who is averaging 45.5% from three-point range.

UCLA's Josh Shipp will try to keep Hayes in check. Shipp has shown improvements in his defensive game so far this season and has been deadly from outside averaging 15.0 points a game on 58.6% shooting and 44.4% from beyond the arc.
And we have already read about the matchup between Vasquez and Westbrook. Now one kid who may get some decent action today (against Vasquez) is our other point guard, walk on Mustafa Abdul-Hamid. And if you read Pucin’s write up today, it will be readily apparent that he is not a regular walk on (and I am not writing this to hype him up like the Doofus does with his walk ons):
Abdul-Hamid, who is 6 feet 2 and 196 pounds, spoke as if he were a leader, discussing how during his time on the court his only goals will be to get his teammates the ball and play defense.

"I don't need to be more complicated," he said. "I don't need to be fancy."

As he stood off in a corner, ceding the middle spots in the room to those more accustomed to attention, Abdul-Hamid grew excited in talking about why he came to UCLA with no financial aid or any promise other than if he attended Howland's practices and paid attention, he would become a better basketball player.

"My philosophy, when it comes to life is to assess the situation and take a calculated risk," Abdul-Hamid said. "Once you take the risk, don't look back. I knew of the risk coming here and that I wouldn't play as much initially as I would at other places, but without risk there's no reward."
You get the feeling that the kid is not your typical college student athlete. Well, I think these grafs will probably give us a clue as to what Coach Howland has at his disposal:
In high school, Abdul-Hamid had covered his notebooks in a quote he had taken from Wooden. "Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out."

When Abdul-Hamid thanked Wooden for the quote, Stephen said (Mustafa’s Dad -N), "Coach told him it wasn't his own quote. Coach Wooden had taken that quote from Abraham Lincoln."
You get the idea why, given the option, I like starting my days with reading about Coach Howland’s program over the disgrace we now know as Karl Dorrell. Every aspect of Coach Howland’s program is a joy to read about and presents sweet relief from the ugliness that is Dorrellian football.

The game is set to tip off at 4 pm PST. We will have a game thread go up right before it.