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Getting Ready ...

I mentioned in my notes earlier that Bruins will beat the Gators if they do three things. Play their prototype Ben Ball defense, reduce turnovers, and hold their own in rebounding. With those three factors in mind let’s get today’s roundup.

First, Dohn has an awesome article on how Bruins play their prototype Ben Ball defense. Dohn hones in on the all the post game comments we have heard over last two years after a UCLA game, when opponent coaches and players are left with excuses of not making easy layups and open shots. There is a reason why so many teams are befuddled (and bruised up) after they take on our Ben Ball warriors. Here is Dohn:

"I think our pressure defense forces teams to get sped up, and I don't think they're used to that pressure," Bruins wing Josh Shipp said. "It's hard to simulate that every day in practice. It's something they've never seen."

UCLA's defensive speed begins on the perimeter with lightning-quick Bruins point guard Darren Collison. He is rarely beaten off the dribble, but when an opponent gets by him, the play is hardly over because a physical conclusion usually awaits.

Mata, backup Alfred Aboya and Mbah a Moute, depending who is in the game, challenge every shot close to the rim. And the Bruins are so aggressive when it comes to defensive rebounding, opponents know a missed shot won't be offset by an offensive rebound and easy putback. Thus, there is more pressure on the shooter.

"We can't reduce anybody's shot (total)," Collison said. "We're just trying to reduce their percentage, try to contest shots and try to get a hand in their face. When they drive, our post players do a good job of taking charges."
And here is the money quote from Luc on why UCLA opponents are missing wide open shots and layups:
"It must be God standing behind the basket or something," Mbah a Moute said with a smile. "I think it's our defense. I think when we pressure a team, it makes them want to drive more and I think they get out of control. And that's part of playing defense."
While the Bruins will have to come out with defensive focus and play their prototype inside the jersey defense, they are going to have to be strong around the boards. Luc and Mata are going to have to play big and hold their ground. Great article in the LA Times today profiling our big guy in the middle. Two days ago Coach Howland received the golden seal of approval from Coach Wooden himself. Today Mata gets his props from the Big Red:
"The Bruins are a great defensive team and you don't have a great defensive team without having an anchor on the backline. And that comes from Mata's willingness to do all the little things that solidify the Bruins defense. All the double teams, the pressure on the perimeter, none of that would work without the effort of Mata. That's what makes basketball such a great game: What the Bruins are facing this weekend — how to beat the big guys." […]

"One maxim that applies so perfectly for Mata this weekend is that basketball is not only a game of size or strength," Walton says. "It is also about skill, timing, position.

"It's not how big you are, but how big you play. It's not how high you jump, but when you jump. I love the way Mata is playing right now."
It will be interesting whether Lo gets matched up against Noah. I will not be surprised if he takes on Horford on defense, while Luc is guarding more agile Noah. This kid has really held his own against some time big time bigs this year. If he stays focused, patient, rely on the techniques he has learned over last three years under Coach Howland and Daniels, we are going to be have a shot. Mata and Luc (and AA2) will give us a huge boost if they play smart positional defense, and get themselves in positions to keep Horford and Noah off the boards. We are not going to win this game if we get dominated around the glass.

Now that we have talked about defense and rebounding, let’s move on to topic of reducing turnovers. Bruins cannot afford to be sloppy and careless (like they were against KU). Kuwada writes about how Bruins cannot afford to repeat their turnover filled offensive performance against Jayhawks:
A similar performance on Saturday against Florida in one of the national semifinal games could send the Bruins packing. Point guard Darren Collison, who had seven turnovers and only one assist against Kansas, will likely hear about ball protection this week from Coach Ben Howland and his staff. But Collison said he doesn't need the point driven home.

"I got it," Collison said. "We've got to take care of the ball and it starts with me, and I take full responsibility and credit for that. I have to take care of the ball if we want to succeed against Florida. It's real abnormal for a guard to have that many turnovers, for a team to have that many turnovers and win a game. We were very fortunate to come out on top."

Collison said poor decision-making and casual ball-handling against Kansas were the main factors in the abundance of turnovers. The frenetic pace of the game wasn't a factor, he added.

"We just were a little careless with the ball," he said. "It was one of those days."
Well the Bruins cannot afford to have one of those days against the Gators. Otherwise they will get eaten alive. Which is easier said than done.

Thankfully we have a coach who is going to do everything in his power to make sure the Bruins are fully prepared for Saturday. Speaking of whom an amazing article in the LAT today on Coach Howland. It’s a must read. Here is a peak into the incredibly detailed oriented nature of the best basketball coach in America:
"Ben wants everything statted in practice as though it were a game. Everything. Even the most minute stuff," said Central Michigan Coach Ernie Zeigler, who spent five years as an assistant to Howland at Pittsburgh and UCLA. "Deflections. Who takes the most charges in practice. Who takes shots and where. That's just how particular he was. It definitely keeps players in position to be accountable at all times."

He also has some unusual and little-known quirks.

When he discusses opponents' field-goal percentages or rebounding averages, he's accurate to the decimal point. "He has a mind like a steel trap," said Barry Rohrssen, an assistant to Howland at Pittsburgh for four years and now coach at Manhattan College. "Being on his staff was like going to a basketball academy every day. He doesn't just teach players to play, he teaches coaches to coach."

Howland shrugged. "I do have a good memory for phone numbers and statistics," he said. "It's important to know as much as you can and get as much information as you can and learn from it."

He also likes to place a water bottle in the middle of a roll of tape at the end of the scorer's table before each game. Last year the NCAA — talk about obsessed — banned his bottle because it had a logo. After much grumbling, he poured the water into an NCAA-approved cup.
In case you are wondering how our players responding to Howland’s attention to details:
If players don't perform a drill in practice exactly as directed, Howland orders them to repeat it from the beginning. Reserve Michael Roll said that even though that might get tedious, "I've come to realize that it's very good for us. It helps us pay attention to detail, which improves our game, and it helps us focus on the other team."

Point guard Darren Collison said Howland's painstaking methods could mean the difference between winning and losing. "Every possession is going to count. If you miss out on one possession, that possession could come back and haunt you at the end of the game," Collison said.
So you think our boys are going to prepared going into Saturday?

Two more days.