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Ben Ball News & Notes

Bruins rise in the polls is the top line in today’s LA Times report. Diane Pucin managed to track down the lone sports editor who voted for Ben Ball warriors as the number 1 team in the country. Can’t really disagree with his reasoning:

In the AP poll, the Bruins (24-3, 10-3) even got a first-place vote from Bill Liesse, the sports editor of the Peoria (Ill.) Journal Star.

Tennessee is first in both polls after beating previously top-ranked Memphis. In the AP poll, the Volunteers got 69 first-place votes, No. 3 North Carolina got two and UCLA had Liesse's ballot. Memphis is second in the AP poll and North Carolina third, while the coaches have North Carolina second and Memphis third. Tennessee was a unanimous first-place vote-getter from the coaches.

"I don't see anybody else matching UCLA one through five," said Liesse, who then named UCLA's starting five -- Kevin Love, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Josh Shipp, Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook. "I know it's crowded at the top, but at the end of the day I don't see a Kevin Love on Tennessee."
Well over here we are not going to get into commenting on which team should or shouldn’t be number 1. Tennessee won a huge game at Memphis. Kudos to them. Good luck to them in hanging on to that top spot. As for us we have to keep taking care of our business here in the Pac-10. And it looks despite the issues we have to work on our numbers are looking across the board in the Pac-10. From Pucin again:
UCLA ranks in the top five of every team statistical category in the Pac-10 except three-point field-goal shooting percentage, where the Bruins are ninth (Oregon State is last). The Bruins are first in scoring margin and defensive rebounding; second in scoring defense, free-throw percentage and field-goal percentage; third in scoring offense, three-point field-goal defense percentage and offensive rebounding; and fifth in field-goal percentage defense.

Freshman center Love is seventh in the conference in scoring, second in rebounding, fifth in field-goal percentage, second in offensive rebounding and tied for second in defensive rebounding. Westbrook leads in assists, and Collison is first in free-throw percentage and steals.
As for the issues we have to work on we have already talked about 3 point shooting. Love noted how he has to work on his FT shooting:
UCLA center Kevin Love, a 74 percent free throw shooter, was 7 of 12 from the free throw line against Oregon, and is 11 of his last 20 from the line.
"I can't believe it,'' Love said. I missed five of 12, and I'm a far better shooter than that. I think I'm an 85, 90 percent shooter."
Well Kevin is shooting around the 75 percent range this year. So if he can maintain that average or do better than that we are going to be ok.

Kevin also talked about having a sense of urgency during their remaining games:
UCLA freshman center Kevin Love spoke last week about needing urgency, or it will cost the Bruins come NCAA Tournament time.
After Saturday's win against Oregon in which the Bruins trailed by 11 points in the second half, he spoke about it again.
"I don't s necessarily think it's a good thing,'' Love said. "We can't be so off and on like that or else we're going to lose a game when it counts. It's not like the Oregon State game. We had to find ways to get motivated and we did.
"This game, we kind of waited too long. We still won, but we let them get up 11. We didn't have any intensity on defense. We did wait until 11, 12 minutes were left in the second half to really pick it up and then we decided to play. that's something where we're going to have to play all 40 minutes if we want to go where we want to go."
I agree with Kevin that there has to be a sense of urgency heading into this road trip. However, I think that sense of urgency was not missing during the Oregon game, as it was missing against Washington. We have already talked about that game enough. But once again I felt like it was a matter of very talented Oregon team playing lights out right out of the gate. We ended up adjusting and got in our lockdown mode by the later part of first half. But because of some freak issues such as slippages on east end of the court or not being able to convert some easy layups, missed FTs, we weren’t able to take control of that game earlier. Let’s hope those issues are addressed heading into Thursday night’s game against ASU. Because we are not going to have any margin of error on the road against a team that will be playing for their NCAA lives.

So I hope Love along with rest of his team-mates bring the same urgency they showed against WSU on the road, the Oregon/Bay Area road trip, starting with an intense focus on defense. In our program everything starts with our defense. When we come out with a razor sharp intensity on that end of the court, our offense will take care of itself.