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Ben Ball Roundup: Prairie View/Miami (OH) Game Notes & Recruiting Update

So the basketball season is underway. Reading Ty’s post game thoughts and the comment threads it sounds like we played a typical season opener against an out manned opponent. Per the LAT report today Bruins got it going with their defense and were helped out by contributions from DG and ML:

Defense was no problem in the first half against a smaller and outmanned Prairie View A&M team.

The Bruins came out shooting well enough and, more important, playing a familiar style of man-to-man defense, pressuring the ball, forcing missed shots.

With Collison on his way to a team-high 19 points, they opened up a lead in front of a crowd of 7,190 and Howland felt comfortable putting four of his vaunted recruiting class on the floor together.

Freshman forward Drew Gordon responded with a team-high eight rebounds. During one stretch, freshman guard Malcolm Lee scored six consecutive points.

"I just think their firepower wore us down," Prairie View Coach Byron Rimm II said, adding: "Honestly, we don't see teams this big."

But after UCLA extended its lead to 27 points midway through the second half, the Panthers crept back.

Forward Darnell Hugee got hot on his way to a game-high 22 points. At the same time, UCLA suffered from those turnovers, 24 in all.

Collison and his backup, freshman Jerime Anderson, had six each. Forward James Keefe had three.

TOs seem to be big concern coming out of yesterdays’ game. The sloppy effort in the season opener is not something to get alarmed about (it will be, if it continues deep into the pre season). In addition to the TOs, the folks at Bruin Basketball Report were not too impressed with the efforts of our upperclassmen in the front court:

UCLA was a bit sloppy, likely a symptom of early season action, committing 23 turnovers. However, they also forced 27 turnovers.

The Bruins used its size advantage to work the boards, but their low-post offensive options were still just limited to freshman J'mison Morgan.

Although Morgan was just 2 of 2 from the field, he was the only Bruin to score off the low blocks on set plays. All other inside scoring was off drives from the perimeter or rebound put backs. UCLA's inside scoring continues to be a problem and something the team will need to address quickly.

Forward James Keefe did not play a particularly strong game. Although he grabbed 6 rebounds and scored 7 points, considering he was playing against an undersized Panthers team, Keefe did not provide the team with toughness and defensive presence the Bruins need from his power forward spot.

Moreover, Alfred Aboya still resembles more of a good role player rather than a starter for a top 5 basketball program. Again, the Bruins will need to address their low post needs either through improved play by their returning players or more minutes from their blossoming low-post freshmen.

The Bruins will not have a lot of time to smooth things out in practice because they get to turn around in less than 24 hours to take on a tough Miami (OH) team, which is perfectly capable of pulling off an upset against a young team. The LAT report provides a little glimpse of the style of basketball Miami likes to play:

UCLA will face a Miami of Ohio team that likes to keep the pace slow.

That means the Bruins will have to clean up some of their sloppy play and get ready to work harder.

"They're going to be happy to play it in the 40s," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said of Miami. "We're going to need our legs because there are going to be long periods of defense."

One guy who will have to play some serious D tonight is JH, who will get to take on Red Hawk star Kenny Hayes:

[S]oon-to-be-superstar Jrue Holiday showed he was willing to wait until UCLA really needed him, scoring 11 points. But tonight he gets a chance to do something special. He'll guard Miami star Kenny Hayes, who made the winning four-point play with 1.7 seconds left in the Redhawks' 70-66 victory over Weber State in the night's first game.

"This is a really good team we're playing," Holiday said of Miami. "They beat Xavier last season and have four seniors. We should have beat this team (Prairie View) by 40 or 50 points if we played well. Tonight, we have to play well."

The note about four seniors is worry some. Over the years I have seen teams like UCLA get upset in exactly this kind of games early in the season when they are in the process of developing team chemistry with so many freshmen, against a well experienced and well drilled slow down team from a Mid Major. Gotta say, I am a little more than worried about tonight’s game and will not be stunned if there is an upset.

JH and his team-mates will have Dragovic in the lineup today, who was suspended by Howland for last night’s game. Here is Coach Howland’s explanation for suspending Dragovic for last night’s game:

"Even though I'm behind him 100 percent, and again, very confident this thing is all going to work out, it still is his responsibility to not even be in a situation where he can even be accused of anything," Howland said. "We're in a big fishbowl. When you're a UCLA basketball player, a lot of responsibility comes with that, and I don't want any of my players, or anyone, to think I take any of this lightly."

Interesting to hear Coach Howland sounding "confident" about this being "worked out." Perhaps he is aware of more facts than what has been reported in the press. I am anxious to get the final story on this.  Per Dohn’s report the city attorney's office is reviewing his case and “could decide on whether to file charges by the end of the week.” If Dragovic gets exonerated Howland's action will be more than sufficient. If he doesn't then he will need to punish him lot more severely.

Lastly, if you didn’t know our four recruits from the class of 2009 - Tyler Honeycutt, a 6-foot-8-inch, 190-pound guard/forward out of Sylmar, Calif. (Sylmar HS); Brendan Lane, a 6-foot-10-inch, 205-pound forward from Rocklin, Calif. (Rocklin HS); Reeves Nelson, a 6-foot-7-inch, 220-pound forward out of Modesto, Calif. (Modesto Christian HS) and Anthony Stover, a 6-foot-10-inch, 210-pound center from La Cañada, Calif. (Windward HS) – signed their LOI yesterday. For all the details check out the official site. Brian Dohn from the Daily News also has a nice write up on the next edition of Ben Ball warriors, with the note that Howland and his staff are not done with this year’s class yet. They might still reel in recruits like Mike Moser this Spring. So stay tuned on that front.

We will have the game thread up for tonight’s game about half an hour before tip-off.