Luckily we don’t have to spend a lot of time on dwelling on the dispiriting football game from last night. We have a basketball game to think about tonight. Ben Ball warriors get back in action tonight with a game against Florida International, which should present a great opportunity for this team featuring five freshmen to get better before the conference season.
We have talked about Coach Howland has been working to implement a motion offense during the practices this week. In addition to working on offense, our veterans (no doubt influences by Howland and his staff) are talking about the need to play better defense:
Guards getting beat off the dribble and big men getting lost on screens and also blowing assignments close to the basket dotted UCLA's games this season, and it has led to a not-so-familiar look.
Bruins coach Ben Howland's teams are known for strong defense, but that is not UCLA's forte entering today's game against Florida International at Pauley Pavilion.
"I think we're struggling defensively right now," UCLA senior center Alfred Aboya said. "Teams are beating us off penetration dribble. Teams are shooting (45 percent) against us right now. That won't get you anywhere, so we have to go back to our fundamentals, go back and play defense like we did the past three years."
Last season teams shot 41.8percent against the Bruins, compared to 42.8 percent two seasons ago and 41.5 percent in 2005-06, which was Howland's first Final Four team.
Aboya said one of the problems is the guards' inability to stop dribble penetration, partly because they are guarding too far away from the basket.
"We're way out there, like two big steps beyond (the 3-point line)," Aboya said. "That's easy for the offensive player to go around you. I think what we need to work on is give a little room and just try to contain the other things. That will be the key."
In response to the defensive concerns, the team has been focusing on a lot of defense specific basic drills this week in practice:
So this week, swingman Michael Roll said, the team worked on "step-sliding on defense, keeping your man in front of you, a lot of box-out drills, help rotation. Just a lot of basics."
It might help that they are facing a Florida International team that is shooting less than 40% this season.
Senior point guard Darren Collison also figures it might take a while for the freshmen on the team to appreciate the effort and intensity required to play good defense.
"I know I didn't when I was a freshman," he said.
The Golden Panthers are 3-3 in games this season which included a 74-51 loss to the Washington Huskies, 74-51, in Seattle.
FIU is averaging 58.3 points on just 39.7% field goal shooting and hitting on just 31.3% from beyond the arc.
The Panthers only have two players averaging in double figures. Forward Nikola Gacesa (6'9, 238, Jr) is averaging 10.8 points and guard Michael Dominquez (6'3, 185. Jr) the team's only three-point threat, is averaging 10.5 points.
The team does have some good size along the front line, in addition to Gacesa, the Panthers start seven-footer Russell Hicks (7'0, 260, Sr) and have Freddy Asprilla (6'10, 280, Fr) coming off the bench. Hicks is averaging 9.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks a game while Asprilla leads the team in rebounding with 6.3 per game.
Despite the Panthers' size they will not be able to handle the Bruins' advantage of athleticism and skill at every position on the floor. The game will give UCLA yet another opportunity with its preseason schedule to work and improve its game prior to the Pac-10 season.
The tipoff is scheduled for around 4:30 pm PST (on FSNPT).
We will have a special college football game thread go up around 9:00 am PST ... for all college football junkies on BN. That should keep you occupied up until Ben Ball game thread goes up around 4:00 pm PST. Enjoy your Saturday.