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Ben Ball Game Day Roundup

The way this morning (well it is going to be afternoon out East, but brunch time back home) is shaping up, Bruins despite their number 2 ranking may be the underdog going up against a fired up West Virginia. Once again Bruins are going to have answer questions wrt their ability to handle zone defenses, and their key weapon for attacking this defense may be sidelines for this game. Here is Dohn on Bruins' predicament going into today's game:

The next test comes today when No. 2 UCLA meets zone-oriented West Virginia at the WVU Coliseum, but whether Collison can break it down is a two-part question.

First, Collison seems to go into funks sometimes against zones. Second, and more important in this instance, he is a game-time decision because of an injured left shoulder. He did not practice Thursday or Friday.

"That puts us at a disadvantage, obviously, if he can't play," Howland said. "He's getting treatment with our trainer so we'll just have to wait and see. He could not lift his arm above his shoulder (Wednesday) morning."

Collison suffered a sprained AC joint in Wednesday's win against USC, but Howland said it was not known exactly when the injury occurred.

If Collison can't play, freshman Russell Westbrook will start, and leading scorer and off-guard Arron Afflalo will be the backup. With this being a non-conference game, and Pacific-10 Conference games at Arizona State and Arizona looming next week, there could be an inclination to hold Collison out.

"We're going to see how it feels, but if he's going to miss a game, it's going to be this game as opposed to a Pac-10 game," Howland said. "It will be just like Josh (Shipp's) injury or Luc (Richard Mbah a Moute's) injury. We're going to err of the side of caution on this."
That's what I am hoping for. It is better to be cautious in a game like this which has no bearing on the Pac-10 standing. If DC is not ready this afternoon there is no need for him to force himself into action. I rather have him healthy for the ASU game on Thursday night then this game today.

In any event I am excited to see how Westbrook does if he gets the start. The kid is fearless. I know many of us were wondering why didn't he get any mins. during second half against Southern Cal. Here is Coach Howland on Westbrook:
When you go back and watch the 'SC film, there's a good reason to question, well, why he didn't play in the second half the other day, because he came in and was responsible for eight points in a row for our team," Howland said.

"He did a great job. He came in right away, penetrated, jump stop, pass to Alfred (Aboya) for the layup. Came in again, penetrated, no one picked him up, pulled up for a jumper. Came in, penetrated again, and gave someone a wide open shot in the corner. And did another jump stop for a pass. I mean, he really did a good job."
Southern Cal wasn't the only game Westbrook appeared fearless. I still remember how he came in during the Kentucky game (when DC got in foul trouble) and held his own. Also against Oregon when rest of his team-mates were not stepping up against zone, it was Westbrook in constant attack mode. So it will be very interesting to see how Westbrook handles himself if he gets the start this afternoon.

Going back to Coach Howland's comments he also had this to say about how to attack the zone defense:
"A lot of times what we have problems with is that we get too perimeter-oriented," Howland said. "You have to get the ball inside whether it's man or zone. You've got to get the ball inside either at the low post or the high post to get the defense to react and collapse, and then you kick it back out.

"I thought Darren for example, was very tentative early (against USC). Darren should be one of the best guys in the country at being able to dribble penetrate gaps, get in there and then stop and slow down. As he gets better and better at it, it sure makes us better. There's no reason he can't get in there. It's just a matter of him thinking about it."
Well whoever it is - DC or Westbrook - hope the Bruins come out focused. I think they will have a very good chance of pulling out a big win even without DC, if they show some patience on offense and look to attack the Mountaineers in the paint. Unlike others I have some faith in the combination of Mata and AA2. Again those guys may not be polished offensive stars, but they can get their points by hauling in valuable offensive rebounds, picking up second/third chance points. They have been making a difference and let's hope they continue to do so.

Anyways this should be a great game today as we get to see two really great coaching minds engage in on court strategery. We will get the game thread up in a bit.