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Ben Ball Roundup

Yesterday we talked about the edge Panthers may have on the Bruins in the front court. Coach Howland is understandably concerned about Pitt’s size advantage. Dohn reports on Coach’s thoughts on Pitt’s front-court:

"They have more size than we do, especially in Aaron Gray," Howland said. He's a great player, an All-American caliber center. Great hands, great skill level. Huge. He's at least 7-feet tall, barefoot. And Kendall is 6-10, so those guys are really big and long. Kendall is a very good player, very smart, very good defender, very good shooter."

Gray leads Pitt in scoring (14 ppg) and rebounding (9.6 rpg), and Howland said Gary is a strong passer, which could limit UCLA's ability to double team. Kendall, who weights 225 pounds, averages 5.9 points and 5.5 rebounds.

The Bruins will counter with 6-9, 240-pound center Lorenzo Mata and 6-8, 230-pound power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.

"If you watch Aaron Gray closely and study him," Howland said, "there's not a lot of people that can match up with him physically in terms of strength."
Dohn goes on to mention how Howland may call upon bench players, specifically Keefe and Wright to give some minutes spelling AA2 and Mata. Let’s hope when they get in there they stay composed and do all the little things to help the team. Keefe has done that quiet often this season, while unfortunately for Wright the proverbial light bulb still hasn’t turned on for him. I am sure it will happen for him before he leaves Westwood, but still it would be a huge boost for the Bruins if these two can get in, give some minutes of focused and concentrated defense, grabbing some valuable rebounds, and may be some bonus garbage points here and there. We will see what happens.

Meanwhile, on the other end we heard yesterday how AA may be looking to drive more in this upcoming game. We are hoping that AA will be looking to get aggressive within the flow of the game. And that is exactly what AA articulated to Kevin Pearson from the Press Enterprise:
Afflalo said that there was no predetermined number of shots that he would miss before he elected to start driving and not take any more mid-range jumpers. Instead, he said it has to be based on feel for the game.

"Once I start driving the ball more and getting to the foul line and doing some things to get myself into a rhythm, my shot will fall," Afflalo said. "If I miss it, I miss it. But when I do miss it, it's probably beneficial for me to start driving the ball now.

"You have to have a feel for the game. You know if your shots are off or not, if the misses are bad, or if they are right there."
This would be the perfect game for AA to get out of his shooting slump, which he has been on since the Washington game. Pucin has a nice profile on AA today, which includes some telling testimonials on AA from DC and Shipp:
Sophomore point guard Darren Collison said that he recognized Afflalo as a leader the first day he came to practice at UCLA.

"It's not that Arron is loud and vocal," Collison said, "but when you watched him practice, he was very professional. He works equally hard at every part of the game. He's always working and the rest of us notice that. He doesn't have to say, 'Work harder,' because we see Arron doing it.

"If he's feeling bad about himself he doesn't let his emotions trickle down to everybody. He's never down on the team, either, just because he's not going good."

Josh Shipp, who has played with Afflalo since both were 8, said there wasn't a time when Afflalo didn't take the weight of the team on his shoulders.

"That's his work ethic," Shipp said. "He's not the most vocal guy, but he always defended the toughest guy and other guys would feed off Arron's defensive intensity. The thing about Arron is that he's the same player now and does all the same things as he did then."

Afflalo takes the game and his position in it seriously. There are few joking matters in Afflalo's mind when UCLA basketball is involved. He can't be cheered up by a one-liner after a UCLA loss and he was in tears after losses to Oregon and Stanford.
DC's comments reminds me of the stories I used to hear from Forty Niners players about Jerry Rice's practice habits. Apparently Flash 80 would catch those 7 yard slant passes from Number 16 and 80, and then sprint down every single time down the practice field even though he didn't have to. It rubbed off on rest of his team-mates and instilled an unrivaled work ethic among the Niners, which was one of the foundation of their incredible run during the 80s and 90s.

Anyways I am hoping we don’t have to see those tears until he gets the cut down the nets after the final game in Atlanta.

Let’s hope he has the game of his life on Thursday night.