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Ben Ball Strategery Against the Mountaineers

BBR as usual has a great write up on tomorrow afternoon’s game. The key for UCLA on offense is going to be how they attack the Mountaineer’s 1-3-1 zone:

Playing a hard-nosed 1-3-1 zone defense the Mountaineers have held teams to just 58.2 points a game (14th best in the nation) on 42.2% shooting while recording 8.7 steals a game. The key to their 1-3-1 zone is the player at the top of the zone who disrupts the opponent's offensive flow with aggressive defense pressure on the perimeter.

Last season, UCLA had problems attacking the 1-3-1 zone when the Mountaineers visited Pauley. Coach Howland tried to attack the vulnerable middle of the zone by placing Jordan Farmar at the top of the circle, but the Bruins were never comfortable with the offensive set and fall behind early to the Mountaineers before eventually losing the contest.

It will be interesting how Coach Howland decides to attack the Mountaineer zone on Saturday since UCLA hasn't been particularly effective scoring against any zone defense. In their victory over West Virginia this week, Pittsburgh was able to score inside with Aaron Gray and Sean Young but the Bruins don't have the luxury of a consistent inside threat.
As I pointed out earlier I think the presence of Mata (who didn’t play against the Mountaineers last year) and an improved AA2 could make things interesting and different tomorrow afternoon. Our big guys may not be the complete finished produce on offense. However, they have more than held their own in big games this year. I think AA2 had a better game than much hyped Taj Gibson on Wednesday. They also have done quiet well against much more heralded bigs such as Brockman/Hawes earlier in the season. Our guys can play. The key IMHO is going to be patience on our part. If we can get some crisp passing around the perimeter, and find a way to attack and pound the ball inside we will get some results.

As for when we were on defense the key is going to be lock up the perimeter so that the Mountaineers are not getting easy/open looks from outside
On offense, West Virginia is highly disciplined and take very good care of the ball, committing just 11.5 turnovers a game (3rd best in the nation). The Mountaineers run a lot of back door cuts off screens for lay-ups and mix it with a highly potent three-point shooting game.

50.3% of West Virginia's shot attempts per game are from three-point distance. The Mountaineers have made 10 or more three-pointers in a game 13 times this season and are shooting 37.9% from beyond the arc. They average 10.5 three-point baskets made per game (3rd best in the nation). Seven of the eight players in the Mountaineer's rotation shoot over 34% from three point distance.

Obviously when they are hitting their three-point shots the Mountaineers are extremely tough to beat , when they don't, they can lose badly as they did against Pittsburgh when they managed to shoot just 6-27 for 22.2% from beyond the arc. The Panthers got out quickly on the Mountaineer's perimeter shooters and played the passing lanes extremely well in their win - a formula which the Bruins need to duplicate.
As BBR goes on to mention we can probably except AA to draw the defensive assignment against Frank Young, who is their emotional and scoring leader. I also think it will be imperative for DC and Shipp to be fierce on defense from the get go, so that the Mountaineers face intense pressure around the perimeter.

It is going to be a very tough game. I will actually be not all that surprised if the Mountaineers pull out the upset. However, if we come out composed and focused, and pound away at them by attacking them inside, and then play our prototypical lock down defense, we should be able to pull out a nice win.

UPDATE: as pointed out in the comment thread all on a sudden Bruins' assignment got lot tougher. Per Dohn's blog DC is questionable for tomorrow's game because of a shoulder injury he suffered sometime during Wednesday night's game. If DC can't go, Westbrook will get his first start. This will make tomorrow even more interesting than we thought it was going to be already.