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Ben Ball Game Day Roundup: Return Of The Matadors

Give credit to Coach Howland and the Morgan Center schedulers for this one. They scheduled a game less than 24 hours after the last football game of the regular season. Perfect timing to take our mind off from football (or if the result had gone our way it would have been perfect to keep the buzz going). Anyway, Bruins get to come back to the court one more time before the finals week to work on issues (i.e. developing an idenity on offense while tightening up the defense) they need to get fixed during non-conference season.

On the menu tonight for our Ben Ball warriors are the Matadors from Cal State Northridge. The Matadors haven't been to Pauley since the infamous upset that all but sealed the proof that head coach who had destroyed our program prior to Howland'a arrival in Westwood was nothing short of a poser/clown. From the official site:

This is just the sixth meeting between UCLA and Cal State Northridge with the Bruins leading the series 4-1. All five prior meetings have been in Pauley Pavilion with the Matadors winning the last contest, a 78-74 upset of then No. 15 UCLA on Nov. 21, 2000. The Matadors were led by Jeff Parris (27 points and five rebounds) and by John Burrell (17 points and five boards). CSUN also got solid performances from Brian Heinle (13 points, four rebounds, three assists, three blocks and three steals) and from Markus Carr (seven points, eight assists, four boards, two steals). The Matadors trailed by seven at the break (39-32) and went on a 21-5 run in the second half to build a 59-48 lead with 7:35 remaining. The Bruins were led by Earl Watson and Ray Young, who each scored 15 points. Dan Gadzuric came off the bench to tally 12 points and eight rebounds while Matt Barnes had the game's only double-double of 11 points and 10 boards. T.J. Cummings chipped in 10 points for UCLA.

So just think of that for min to reflect how far we have come under Coach Howland in last few years. BTW in case any one missed it Michigan upset number 4 Duke Blue Devils yesterday afternoon in Ann Arbor leading few Duke "fans" to flood their fanblogs wailing and screaming at Coach K to change up his offense (kidding about the last part; I have no idea what happens on Duke blogs/boards).

Anyway, as mentioned above our guys have to go back to the drawing board a bit following the loss against Texas:

There isn't much mystery about what the Bruins needed to address in the short time they had to prepare for Northridge.

On defense, they failed to switch at critical moments. On offense, the guards had some success in penetrating and breaking down the defense but did not always distribute the ball to open teammates.

And it didn't help that the Bruins made only 39% of their shots.

"I think this is going to be a good shooting team," Howland said. "We've just got to keep working."

More from Bruin Basketball Report's game preview:

The team is still looking for an identity on offense. Last week the Bruins started working on inserting a motion offense scheme but it was completely absent in the Texas game. Still too much dribbling, not enough passing, and too much individual effort for a team that does not have many players who can create offensive shots for themselves, sans Darren Collison.

Defensively the Bruins have been inconsistent in their effort. More troubling, the team has not found the lock-down defender its been able to depend on the past few seasons. There is no Arron Afflao, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, or Russell Westbrook to stop the opponent's best offensive option. Freshman Jrue Holiday has the potential but he'll need more seasoning and experience before he reaches that level.

The next few non-conference games will be a good time for all the freshmen to integrate themselves further into the offense . Not unexpectedly, they've all generally been inconsistent in their effort and play thus far. However, the team will need them in the regular rotation if they expect to go far in the NCAA tournament.

It will also be interesting to see if veteran role players like Michael Roll will see more minutes. Roll, who is returning from offseason foot surgery, is playing well this year but is only averaging 15.3 minutes per game despite shooting 52.2% from the field and a career-best 53.3% from three-point land. UCLA could definitely use Roll's outside shooting to open up the paint.

As for the Matadors they are led by a group of veteran starters (4 seniors and a junior).  Two of their key guys per BBR:

CSUN is led in scoring by forward Willie Galick (6'8, 225, Jr). The red-shirt junior is averaging 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. A solid post player who can get to the basket, he's shooting 60.5% from the floor. [...]

Josh Jenkins (5'10, 185, Sr) is the team's floor general. He is averaging 10.3 points and 5.2 assists per game. He's struggled with taking care of the ball this season committing over six turnovers per contest. He won't get a breather in this game with Darren Collison hounding his every move.

For rest of the 411 on Matadors read BBR's preview here.

The game is set to tip off around 7:30 pm PST on FSN Prime Ticket. We will have the game thread up about half an hour before tip off.