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I will warn you right now before you go any further in reading this post: I am going to sound a lot like Diane Pucin this Friday. Bruins eeked out a tough win against a gritty and outmanned Sun Devils squad last night. It was a road win and as T said down below at 4-3 we will take any road win. Bruins needed at least a split during this Arizona road trip to stay on track to defend their regular season conference title. They got the win, which takes a little pressure off the Arizona game on Saturday. But still there are now bunch of lingering issues/questions that has me concerned going into rest of the season.

Where to start? I will go with the obvious and start with number 3. Number 3 was 1 for 5, scoring 6 points, and going 0-3 from the three point line. He did have 6 assists and sank 4 clutch FTs in the last min. of the game. Otherwise last night had to be one of the worst games I have ever seen Shipp play as a Bruin. Except for brief moment of brilliance (when he pulled in a rebound and then went around Pendergraph to throw down a monster dunk) Shipp looked lost. He looked like he was playing without any confidence on offense and on D. I am not getting it. Why is he shooting 3 pointers? He is not a 3 point shooter. He is shooting 3 pointers at a 28 percent clip this year, which is the same percentage he shot his freshman year, the last year he played for an entire season.

Right now Josh is just as effective from the 3 point line as Cedric Bozeman was last year. But what made Bozeman a much more effective team player (not to mention a leader) was that Ced knew his limitations. He knew he couldn’t afford to let his team down by jacking up 3s from the outside (and actually he was a better 3 point shooter than Josh, shooting 39 percent last year). So he did all the little things. He focused on defense. He didn’t let anyone get around him. He picked up his points via slashing to the hoops, short jumpers, he made things happen. He took 3 pointers mostly within the flow of the game taking judicious shots. Josh can do all of that if he puts his f*cking head (yes he is driving me crazy) into the game. Perhaps he ought to get the idea of him being 3 point shooter out of his head and think about how he can pick up points from 8-15 feet range within the flow of the game. Otherwise every time he is bricking from the 3 point line he is effectively turning the ball over to the other team. It is maddening.

Everyone here knows how we think the world of Coach Howland. Here is my question for Coach Howland though. My understanding was that in his program a player earns minutes if he plays contributes by playing ferocious defense. I am not seeing Shipp doing that either. In fact there have been many games I have seen Shipp simply play lethargic defense, only to see the team get jump started when Westbrook or Roll come in.

Anyways, I am coming down hard on Shipp on because I believe this kid can do so much more. I wonder what it is going to take get his confidence back. I am sure Coach Howland is thinking about it.

Because of Josh’s ineffectiveness right now the team has only two reliable scoring options in AA and DC. Essentially this team is in the same situation last year when Farmar and AA were the only true scoring options for the 05-06 squad. Coming into this season I thought Shipp would emerge as the third scoring option based on how he made his contributions during his freshman year doing all the little things. Until he can figure out how he can do that I don’t think it would be bad idea for Coach Howland to reduce his minutes in favor of Westbrook and Roll. Westbrook gives us a much needed energy boost on offense and defense, while Roll I believe is much more steady player (at least at this point of time) than Josh Shipp.

Moving on from Shipp. The team continues to have problem with zone defense. And this goes back to the issue of players being tentative on offense. Here is Coach Howland in the LA Times:

UCLA Coach Ben Howland suggested his team needs to become more willing to take chances when the opponent decides to control pace and tempo and dares the Bruins to solve the zones.

"When I was a player," Howland said, "I salivated when I saw a zone. You have to not be afraid to make mistakes when you see the zone."
In addition of not being afraid to make mistakes, as Howland pointed out to Dohn Bruins are not feeding the post too well:
"We're not hitting the high post sometimes when we're open," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We're hesitant and tentative, at times, to do that. We can't be like that.
Michael Roll IMHO is the best passer in our team in terms feeding the post. If you watch closely you will see he is the best in terms of finding our big guys inside. We need to see lot more of that from our other guys (cough*Shipp*cough).

Also as we have mentioned many times already this season we’d like to see more and more of Westbrook. He is always looking to attack inside and besides DC he is probably the best slasher currently on this team.

Luc was held scoreless last night. However, he had a good excuse. Here is Dohn again:
[M]bah a Moute's right eye was the evidence of how trying this win became. He was elbowed by Pendergraph in the first half, played with blurred vision the rest of the way and sported an abrasion below the eye afterward.

"It's very blurry," said Mbah a Moute, who went 0 for 6 in 34 minutes. "I just saw the doctor and he said it's going to be blurry for a little bit and by (today) it should be fine. So I'll just have to wait. I see blurry. It's very fuzzy."
Hope Luc is 100 percent by Saturday afternoon. We are going to need him to step up badly.

I am still perplexed at Mata got just 21 minutes after getting off to such a great start. He didn’t get much time at all in the second half after helping to carry the team’s scoring burden in first half, when no one besides AA was stepping up. Hope he is all right. Speaking of AA on to the stars of last night:

AA had a great game. He got off to a fiery start. He was contained in the second half. But then again you can’t blame him too much considering he was getting mauled around the perimeter since the Sun Devils keyed on him after the first half.

What can you say about DC? An amazing performance. My heart was dropping every time he was getting hammered on his way to the hoop. Hope his shoulder is feeling all right. That was one of the best performance I have seen from DC all this season.

Anyways, Bruins will need to come out and play much better next Saturday. They are not going to get away with playing the same atrocious defense they did early on last night when they were giving up assortments of layups, dunks, second chance buckets, by allowing the Sun Devils move around freely through their defense. They did lock it down after falling down by 10 points in mid way through second half. But they won’t get away with playing with fire against an explosive team like Arizona.

Despite the shining performances from AA, DC, and Mata (in the early going) this team still has the same questions to answer, we have asking for last few weeks. They just have 5 Pac-10 games left to come up with answers. Hopefully they can do a little better of answering them on Saturday.