It’s the week of the obvious story line. I have written up one post on some of the raw feelings that still prevail in Steel Town over the inevitable arrival of Coach Howland to Westwood four years ago. However, I am not going to dwell too much on the topic and just try to keep the focus on this game here on the main page. Pitt is going to be very a tough opponent. Per Coach Howland Pitt reminds him of the A&M team, the Bruins faced off against earlier in the season:
The Bruins beat Texas A&M 65-62 in the December's Wooden Classic. It was such a grinding, body-leading game Howland said kept freshman power forward James Keefe, a McDonald's All-American, on the bench.
Howland said afterward the game was too physical for Keefe, who could be forced into playing against the Panthers if Aboya or starting power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are in foul trouble, which is possible given Gray's presence.
The 7-foot, 270-pound Gray averages 10 free-throw attempts per game, is third in the Big East in rebounding (9.6 per game) and leads Pittsburgh in scoring at 14points per game.
And Gray will have three inches on Bruins center Lorenzo Mata and four when Aboya is in at center, giving UCLA a difficult matchup.
"We're going to be left one-on-one with Aaron Gray a lot because he passes so well," Howland said. "If you double him, he's so big he passes out of it. That's going to be the hardest part, trying to take Aaron Gary one-on-one. He's an NBA player, first-round draft pick. He's a big-time player."
He believed a foul should have been called on Bruins center Lorenzo Mata, but it instead was recorded on Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. The call put Mbah a Moute in foul trouble, and caused Howland to put his sophomore power forward on the bench for a few minutes.
"There was a foul on Lorenzo Mata that supposedly was mis-reported to the official scorekeeper," Howland said. "UCLA has an official scorekeeper sitting there to catch any mistakes. He did not catch it. Actually, it was (UCLA sports information director) Marc Dellins who finally pointed it out to us, from up high, but after its reported and done and we don't catch it, its too late."
Howland is also saying he is not going to change up much to match up against his former protégé:
"I mean, there are no secrets," Howland said. "They run things a little different than we are. Everything has been tweaked. We've tweaked a lot of stuff. We play differently than they do."
Howland has said he doesn't like to coach against friends, and it's one reason Pitt is likely to never appear on the Bruins' regular-season schedule. But he apparently put aside any reservations shortly after UCLA defeated Indiana, 54-49, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"It's business," Howland said of the matchup against Dixon and Pitt. "And, really, in reality, I'm happy because that means that they won two and we won two. Obviously, I want to win the game. That's first and foremost. (But) if I had to lose to anyone in the world it would be Jamie Dixon and the Pitt Panthers.
"But we're not going in thinking like that. We expect to win."