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Bruins are going to take on a very good defensive team tonight. Here are BBR's thoughts on what the Bruins may expect from the Trojans tonight:

USC Head Coach Tim Floyd has his team playing excellent defense.  The Trojans are allowing Pac-10 opponents just 40.5% shooting from the field, good enough for second-best in the conference.  Against UCLA, the Trojan defense will alternate between a man-to-man and an aggressive match-up zone.

The Bruins have recently countered against match-up zones to varying success by either going to a four-guard alignment to attack the zone, or by using the motion offense they use against man-to-man defensive alignments.  It will be interesting to see how the Bruins fare against the Trojans this time around.  In the first game the Bruins struggled against the Trojan zone until they started hitting their outside shots late in the second-half.  Obviously, the Bruins will want to attack it aggressively from the start in this game.
I am actually not sure how much zone we are going to see from the Trojans tonight. Given the fact that Bruins have been shooting really well of late, and that they have attacked zone fairly well with their own 4 guard line-up, the Trojans may be better served by sticking to man-to-man. Then again, that could play right into Bruins hands as well.

What are we going to need from our guys is what we saw in the early going against Oregon and throughout the entire game against Oregon State. Bruins will need to be really unselfish on offense during their half court set, and look for that extra pass, while making smart decisions on transition offense. Bruins are looking forward to Shipp's presence this time:
Bruins junior guard Arron Afflalo said Shipp's value was noticeable last month, when the UCLA needed Afflalo's last-second jumper to beat USC at Galen Center. Shipp sat out with a hamstring injury, and the Bruins struggled offensively.

"I think Josh is kind of our x-factor," UCLA sophomore power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "He does everything."

However, Shipp's jump shot has failed him lately, which he attributes partly to a lack of "pop" in his legs. He is shooting 29.6 percent from 3-point range, and his percentage drops to 17.6 in Pac-10 games.

"I think it's a little from the surgery because I picked up bad habits just playing around, shooting, because I wasn't able to jump for a while," Shipp said. "I was doing a lot of set shots, and picked up on the habit. I'm trying to break it right now. I'm not jumping."

Also, Shipp is averaging 3.7 rebounds per game, and his defense is lagging, although it is not costing him playing time. Shipp is averaging 29.8 minutes per game, including 29 minutes in conference play.

"The one thing he's not doing as well this year as (he did as) a freshman is rebounding, in terms of his numbers," Bruins coach Ben Howland said. "We need him to get better in that area, but also part of it is probably we're a better rebounding team, so there's a few less rebounds."
Shipp always adds a new dimension to our offense, but as Coach Howland mentioned he does need to step up in rebounding (as well on defense). He still brings so much to the team. If he just gets in a groove (like AA) where he is letting the game come to him, making that extra pass, and just feed off defensive energy, he will make us an even better team.

Speaking of the defensive side, the key will be to stop Nick Young. As mentioned yesterday, last time it was Luc guarding Nic. Hopefully Luc will continue the show the same inspired effort he displayed against the Oregon schools. AA will probably be matched up against Stewart, but I wouldn't be surprised if he guards Young from time to time. As for the matchup between the bigs, here is BBR again:
Center Taj Gibson has had an outstanding freshman campaign.  Opponents are beginning to key on him in games which has resulted in his points and rebounds to decrease slightly, but it has conversely created scoring opportunities for teammates.  Still, Gibson is shooting an impressive 61.4% from the field - since slam dunks tend to be high percentage shots.  He is agile and extremely quick off his feet.

Gibson will certainly command the attention of UCLA's big men again.  In the first meeting, the tag team of Lorenzo Mata and Alfred Aboya recorded 17 points and 16 rebounds to Gibson's 9 points and 8 rebounds in 40 minutes of play.  UCLA doubled down on Gibson at times in an effort to great turnovers, since he tends to be turnover prone, and will no doubt apply similar pressure on him Wednesday.
AA2 has been really coming on lately. Except for the second half letdown against Stanford, he has had string of some really great games. Hopefully, he will continue that tonight. If Mata and AA2 bring their defensive intensity, and get additional support from Keefe (and maybe even Wright), the Bruins should be able to use their bench to wear down the Trojans.

There is actually an interesting read in the LAT today (written by Pucin of all people) on the defensive philosophies of Coach Howland and his wanna be counterpart from South Central. These grafs caught my attention:
Jerry Pimm, a USC graduate and a coach at UC Santa Barbara who helped mold Howland when he was his assistant, said, "Bottom line, you always think of the East as supposedly way ahead in defense. That wasn't always correct. You'd come out West and find Pete Newell teams and John Wooden's teams played really good defense, but that got overlooked when UCLA was winning, 94-50.

"When Ben first got to UCLA, he tried to teach that defense was hard and he had guys who weren't committed to playing defense. It takes a tremendous commitment to play man to man all the time. I think some people thought what Ben was creating wasn't Hollywood enough, not enough fastbreaks, it will not work. Well, it works and the rest of the Pac-10 is seeing that.
So Howland learned from a Trojan? Kind of like how Schembechler got his start with Woody Hayes? That's fine by me.

Again, I don't think the Bruins need anyone to tell them what's at stake tonight. This is a huge game. A win tonight will enable them to take total control over the conference race. Hopefully, they come out fired up, intense, and get a boost from a ROCKING PAULEY. Did I say Pauley ROCKING?

We have gotten emails about how students have been camping out since Monday. The Cathedral of college basketball will be fired up tonight. If you are there stand up for the entire game, and do your part in screaming out: JUST LIKE FOOTBALL.

Of course, if you are watching the game via TV or the internets, join us here for the open thread. We can cheer on our Ben Ball warriors while they work on taking control of the Pac-10.