So the Ben Ball warriors get back in action this Sunday afternoon (noon to be exact) against Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Pauley Pavilion. The Bulldogs are coming into Pauley with a record of 6-6. If you look at their ESPN team page, you fill find two of their losses came against two non D-1 schools: Seattle University and Alaska Anchorage. This is our last non conference game before starting the conference season against Oregon State in Corvallis on January 2nd. This will be the last game for the young players in this year’s team to make the most out of their minutes to get themselves ready for the intense conference competition. It will give them another chance to tighten up their defensive rotation, while minimizing mistakes and showing patience on the offensive side like they have been in last few games.
Despite some horrific losses against non D-1 program this Bulldog team has had a decent December. They started the month on a three-game win streak when their star guard - Kyle Gibson - was getting consistent scoring help from his teammates. They are now coming off a decent home win against a 7-5 TCU team. From the Bulldogs official site:
Louisiana Tech (6-6) controlled the opening tip and the rest of the game Monday night en route to a 72-67 victory over the TCU Horned Frogs (7-5) in the Thomas Assembly Center.
"That was a great win for us," Tech head coach Kerry Rupp said after the game. "I thought our guys did a great job and battled while giving a great, competitive effort. We had our success tonight when we took the ball inside and battled, but overall I was just pleased to get the win."
Tech wasted no time scoring to start the game and put together a 10-2 run over the first three minutes of play. Junior Jamel Guyton would later add to that lead with a long three-pointer that went in off the glass as the shot clock expired with 14:03 remaining in the first half of play.
The Bulldogs led by as many as 14 points in the first stanza before taking a 39-31 lead into the halftime locker room.
The second half, however, got a little too close for comfort for the Bulldogs. TCU slowly climbed back into the ball game, and with 7:17 left to play, the Horned Frogs were within two points trailing just 55-53 before junior Kyle "Iron Man" Gibson scored his 20th point with six minutes left to play to put Tech head 58-53.
"Our kids really battled tonight," Rupp added. "They got a big win for us tonight here at home."
Gibson led the Bulldogs with 23 total points on perfect shooting from the field (7-of-7) and from the three-point line (3-of-3) while grabbing six rebounds. Guyton followed with 15 points, while junior Kenneth Cooper finished with 11 points with six rebounds as well.
So here is how the current player rotation is set up for the Bulldogs per Sportsline.com:
Usual starters -- G Jamel Guyton, F/C Magnum Rolle, G Kyle Gibson, F David Jackson, C Kenneth Cooper. Key subs -- G Olu Ashaolu, G James Loe.
The key to stopping this guys will be to contain the 6-5, 205 guard Kyle Gibson, who by the way will be looking to enjoy a home coming as he is a graduate of Dorsey High School from LA. Coach Howland will probably ask JH to take on this defensive assignment. I think one of the interesting issues heading into this game will be to see whether JH can break out of his mini slump from last two games. I remember back in the early years of Howland, when AA would get into a scoring slump, he would always look to get himself going by focusing on his defense first and then create his offensive opportunities out of his intense defensive pressure. So perhaps JH can use this game to work on his defense and use that to jump start his offense like AA did during his time in Westwood. In addition to JH, I would expect Howland to also ask ML to guard Gibson as well.
In addition to guarding Gibson in the backcourt, Bruins will also have to look out for Jamel Guyton, a 6-3 180 guard from Odessa Texas who has been really coming on last few games.
In addition to taking care of Gibson and Guyton in the backcourt, Bruins will have to be weary of decent Bulldog talent in the front court, where they will have Magnum Rolle, a 6-11, 225 forward who had originally started his career at LSU. Besides Rolle, the Bulldogs have another imposing forward in 6-10, 260 Kenneth Cooper. More on Guyton and Cooper from Sportslne.com:
--Junior college transfer G Jamel Guyton might have come out of his scoring slump with a 22-point outing Dec. 13 in a win over Centenary. After an impressive 27-point season debut against Louisiana-Lafayette on Nov. 15, Guyton averaged just 9.3 points per game over the next six before the Centenary game (he missed the team's Dec. 10 game vs. Louisiana-Monroe). That six-game slump had plenty to do with his inability to get to the free-throw line. In his two 20-plus point games through Dec. 14, Guyton made 17 of 20 free throws. In his six-game slump in between, he hit just 2-of-6.
--While the recent success for Louisiana Tech seems to have come as the offense got on track, F Kenneth Cooper thins it all started on the defensive end and on the boards. "Coach got into us, so we stepped it up," Cooper told the Shreveport Times. "We were moving with the ball instead of fouling, playing good defense, and boxing out. Then we just capitalized on the other end. ... We told ourselves we were going to step up on defense."
Cooper's rebounding, which was at a team-high 7.6 per game through Dec. 14, seems to be a good litmus test for the Bulldogs' success. Cooper grabbed 9.2 rebounds per game in the team's first five wins and just five per game in the three losses he played in.
At this point of the season, I am starting to feel pretty good about what we are getting out of AA2. The question right now is getting optimum production out of the 4 spot via JK and ND. This is the kind of game in which given the size of the Tech frontcourt, it will be imperative for JK and ND to make sure they are working hard to put themselves in right spots to secure offensive rebounds and not giving their opponents any easy looks down low.
It will also be important for those guys to be patient on offense. Interestingly one of the team stats I was going through this am was A/T ratio of our players. Right now ND has an A/T ratio of 1.6/1, while JK is at 1/2.3. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Howland has been giving ND a lot of mins at the expense of JK? BTW MR has the best A/T ratio among the entire team at 2.6/1 while JS is 1/1.1. From the last reports I read, I don’t think JS will be ready to go on Sunday. However, it will be interesting to see whether MR can continue his torrid shooting form from last two days. One thing MR has been doing is to keep the offensive flow going. He is not jacking up shots out of the offense’s regular flow, which seems to be improving everyone’s game around him. Perhaps it’s just me but it seems like DC has been playing at a higher level last couple of games which might have something to do with MR making the offense flow better.
Anyway, I think Sunday’s game will be interesting because I am curious to see find out whether JH can break out of his mini slump, whether MR can continue to shoot in his current torrid pace, and how our freshmen perform with the mins they will get as Howland will inevitably look to tighten his rotation during early part of the conference season. Hopefully, we will see the same focused effort from our guys on Sunday like have in our last three games. It will set us up well for the start of conference season in 2009.