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Ben Ball News & Notes

Right now going into Sunday’s game one of the biggest concern is Luc’s ankle. Dohn has an update on LRMAM:

Mbah a Moute has yet to be cleared for a full practice. He participated in shooting drills on Wednesday and Thursday. He is slated to be involved in some full contact drills during Friday's practice, but not the entire time. His ankle is improving every day.
Mbah a Moute sprained his left ankle in the second half in the win over Arizona (Feb. 2) and missed the Bruins' trip to Washington last week.
A healthy Luc will help ameliorate the growing concerns with our defense:
After UCLA earned a national reputation for playing fearsome man-to-man defense under Coach Ben Howland -- especially after signature NCAA tournament wins in which Memphis shot only 31.6% in a loss two years ago and Kansas shot 41.4% in a loss last year -- the Bruins haven't been as scary defensively lately.

Overall, the sixth-ranked Bruins' (21-3, 9-2) field-goal percentage defensive average is 42.1%, which ranks UCLA 102nd in the country. In Pacific 10 Conference games, the field-goal percentage defensive average is 45.1%, which puts UCLA fifth in the conference behind Stanford, USC, Arizona State and Washington State.

"We pride ourselves on playing good defense, playing hustle basketball, so it's definitely hard to hear that," Shipp said.

"It's embarrassing when a team does shoot that high a percentage against us," Collison said. "It's February and we shouldn't have games like this."

In the last month, Washington shot 44.1% against the Bruins, Washington State 52.3%, Arizona 48%, Oregon 48.3%. And USC, which UCLA faces Sunday, made 60.9% of its shots in its 72-63 win over the Bruins last month. […]

"We're not getting enough stops," Howland said. "Bottom line is, we're doing a good job on the offensive end when you look at our field-goal percentage (48.8%), but to allow opponents to shoot 45%, that's not low enough. That's pretty high."
Well we have talked about how Luc’s absence has really impacted our defense both inside and out. I thought hicalliber also offered up some interesting observations in yesterday’s comment thread:
I believe our offense has changed a lot this year (obviously). We used to really grind teams on the offensive side, usually waiting to take a shot until there was less than 10 seconds left on the shot clock. I think that throws the other team's shooting rhythm off. Have you ever played winner's ball in a pickup game, only to have the other team take 5 possessions in a row? Generally, once your team gets the ball back someone takes a bad shot and the rout is on. I think the same principle applies here...we are taking too many quick shots (and low % 3's), which allows our opponents to stay hot on the offensive end.
I’d like to hear other’s take on this comment. I definitely think quick 3 pointers out of the rhythm of our offense often serve as a turnover. And I hate to single Dragovic out on this. But I thought there were at least two occasions during last Sunday when he took unnecessary 3s with more than 20 seconds left in the shot clock. I believe James Keefe did the same thing. Now no doubt both them had clutch 3s against Oregon and Washington State. However, that doesn’t mean they should be jacking up 3s with so much time left on the shot clock and not looking for a better shot.

Also when it comes to 3s I know some of us will think of Shipp. But honest I think Josh has been very judicious in his shot selection in recent games. Yes he took 18 shots against the Huskies. But he had to pick up the load because rest of his team-mates were so ice cold on the offensive front. If anything I think Josh has been a model of how to be patient and focus on other things (like look for his team-mates and do his best to D up) when his shots haven’t been going in recent games.

More on our 3 point shooting woes from the OC Register’s Kuwada:
"We have to make them pay. We have to knock down open shots. That's the main thing," Shipp said. "If we make those open shots, then they can't leave another man open."

Even then, that might not be enough. In the Bruins' victory at Washington State, the Cougars doubled Love when he got the ball in the low post. But in their loss to Washington, the Huskies went a step further and showed the double before Love touched the ball, even when he was standing away from the basket.

"I think teams are trying to scheme to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible, which makes sense, he's our leading scorer," Howland said. "We'd like to get him more touches, not just for him to shoot, I mean, a lot of times, because he's such a good passer."

Love, as he has at several points, said that it is not just about shots from the low post.

"I feel like I'm a good enough passer to where I can find open guys. I can find Josh open on the wing, I can find Russell for a cut, and the percentage of times I touch the ball and things good happen and we score, it should be pretty high," he said.

The Bruins could pop him out, 15, 17, 20 feet from the basket. But at some point, it will come down to shooting the basketball better than they have to this point."The other guys on his team have to step up and do a good job when they're open in taking those opportunities," Howland said. "And one thing, when he's not open on the first look, is to be more patient as a team and we weren't very patient, I didn't feel, (in the loss at Washington)."
So it goes back to being patient. I hate point out to Luc’s absence again on this. Having Luc at 4 often neutralizes the doubles on Love because unlike Keefe and AA2, Luc has the ability to drive to the basket. And his outside shot while not perfect, is much more dependable (relatively speaking) compared to AA2 and Keefe.

Also one of the key factor in both of our losses against Southern Cal and Washington was that they were able to get us out of rhythm and get us into playing helter skelter, jungle ball. It resulted in us playing in total chaos without any rhythm leading to so many layups, dunks in transition. So I think hicalliber may be on to something over there. We just can’t let ourselves get sucked into playing that kind of jungle ball. We have to be patient, make that extra pass, and take the best shot we can get, while get ready for offensive rebound or spring back on defense. In other words we have to play our game – Ben Ball – next time we come out on the court.