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Notes On Southern Cal Game

Let's start our Saturday checking in with Luc's status. The news is encouraging:

UCLA junior forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute completed his first full practice with contact today since spraining his left ankle in the second half of the Arizona contest (Feb. 2).
"He looked good, his ankle was fine but he was a little winded," UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland said. He is probable for the Bruins' game at USC on Sunday, Feb. 17.
I'd still like coaches to be as careful with Luc as possible and make sure he is completely ready before putting him on the court.

Honestly, I rather have Luc completely healthy for the stretch run instead of putting him in any kind of risk for the game on Sunday. No matter what happens on Sunday, we will be in control of our destiny in terms of winning the Pac-10. So if sitting Luc out means he will be ready to go in our last 6 games, I'd be leaning towards giving him some more time to heal up. Anyway, this is coach's decision.

Speaking of Southern Cal, Timmeh's gap closers are dressing up for their big night. At 15-8 (6-5 Pac-10) and without Hackett this game is shaping up to be a must win game for them for their tourney chances. Wong from Bruin Basketball Report has a little reset since the last time we saw these guys at Pauley:
After having problems getting into Pullman last Saturday, the Trojans were embarrassed by the Cougars, 74-50. It matched the biggest loss margin in the Tim Floyd era at USC.

USC received bad news earlier this week when it was revealed guard Daniel Hackett was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back. Although the injury will not require surgery, Hackett may not return to the team this season.

Hackett was averaging 9.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and was leading the Trojans with 79 assists. His loss is a big blow to the team, Hackett played a major role in the upset win against UCLA, scoring key baskets down the stretch to help stave off a Bruin rally.

Entering this week's action, USC ranked 18th in the country and second in the Pac-10 in defensive field goal percentage at 38.8%. Meanwhile, UCLA is allowing opponents to shoot 45.1% against them.

Not a strong rebounding unit, the Trojans are being outrebounded on the glass by a margin of -6.4 per game. In January they were beaten on the boards by the Bruins, 39-30, but still managed to pull out the win.

On offense the Trojans are shooting 48.4% and averaging 68.8 points per game. They are led in scoring by guard O.J Mayo.
No matter what these guys are wearing tomorrow night, we should expect a very tough game. And whether we can come out with a victory will depend on our ability to solve their game schemes on both end of the court. Rob Carpentier from Bruin Report Online has an excellent schematic analysis:
On offense, the Bruins should expect to see the triangle-and-two again, since they really couldn't solve it in the first meeting. Regardless of who's playing the two "man" positions, Floyd and the Trojans will put Jefferson and sophomore post Taj Gibson down on the bottom of the triangle. Typically, at the point of the triangle, you want someone who has length and pretty good lateral quickness. That may be Mayo, as it will leave sophomore Dwight Lewis and Johnson to play the man spots. Lewis is a step too slow to properly play the point and Johnson is just too small, at 5'11". USC will have to switch off the players in the "man" spots, though, because the nature of the defense is for the two players in "man" to get tired. The Bruins have got to take advantage of that, whether it means getting through the seams that will be created by Lewis' lack of quickness, or shooting over or muscling Johnson. If Floyd has to go to his bench, he'll probably be looking at sophomore walk-on Ryan Wetherell as the player to spell the guards. If any of the Trojan starters get into foul trouble, then the prospects for a Trojan victory are slim.

When attacking a defense like the triangle-and-two, a team should usually run their "man" offense, with screens being set for the two players being defended along the baseline. This should open up Kevin Love to come off screens and get quite a few one-on-one match-ups in the low post. But the Bruins need to be more patient in their halfcourt sets so that they get good looks, and, more importantly, Love get as many touches as possible. Because of the nature of the defense, there should be a lot of open looks in the 12-15 foot range. UCLA, particularly Russell Westbrook must take advantage of these openings in the zone. Westbrook was entirely too fired up the last time these teams met and hopefully he's learned from the experience.
Yeap. Russell is going to be a huge key tomorrow night. He was a little too amped up last time getting caught up in the hype of going up against OJ2. He will need to stay calm, play his game on defense, and stay under control on offense and not try to hard to pull off Boykin moment. More from Carpentier on BRO:
On defense, the Bruins were sliced up and out-hustled by the Trojans in two key areas. First, the Trojans were able to spread the floor on the Bruins, thus making it harder for UCLA to bring any help once the ball got into the paint, whether because of dribble penetration or because of passes down low. Darren Collison and Westbrook have got to do a better job of keeping their men in front of them. Collison will almost certainly guard Johnson, while Westbrook will be on Mayo. Josh Shipp will take Lewis, leaving Jefferson for Mbah a Moute and Gibson for Love. The Jefferson/Mbah a Moute match-up is especially critical as the Trojan freshman torched UCLA with his athleticism and weakside rebounding in the first meeting with Mbah a Moute.

Weakside rebounding is the second area where the Trojans beat up on the Bruins last month. It wasn't only Jefferson that was able to take advantage of Mbah a Moute's absence as the Trojans scored numerous put-backs and had more than enough multiple shot possessions to greatly anger UCLA Coach Ben Howland. By allowing Alfred Aboya and James Keefe to come off the bench, the Bruins should have a significant reserve advantage over the Trojans, who should be able to effectively count on only junior posts RouSean Cromwell, Keith Wilkinson and Wetherell as bench players.
Read rest of his excellent analysis (which is not behind a subscription firewall) here.

As mentioned above I hope we don't put Luc in unless he is really ready to go. One guy I'd like to see lot more of tomorrow is Mata-Real. I know some of you have pointed this out in recent game threads already. We would love to see combination of Love and Mata-Real on the court. If Luc can't go full speed, MR can provide that defensive and rebounding presence that will be essential to hold the fort tomorrow night.

Another guy who could potentially see some time tomorrow night is Chace Stanback, who is going through growing pains as a freshman in Howland's loaded program. If Chace can come in and provide some key minutes on the defensive side of the court, it would be a huge relief to DC, RW, and Shipp, and keep them fresh in the second half. Then again that will also depend on what kind of defense he is playing in practice.

More than anything I am anxious to see what kind of defense we play tomorrow night. I hope we come out patient and composed, and as mentioned before do not get sucked into playground basketball.