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Ben Ball News & Notes

LMR and his team-mates will have a huge challenge in their hand tomorrow night when they take on a desperate WSU team up in Pullman. Coach Howland is expecting a tough battled. From Perelman in What’s Bruin:

Howland expects a tough battle against the Cougars, who have lost two straight at home. "There’s no question they’ll have their best game of the year prepared for us on Thursday and we’re going to have to really be good to have success on their home floor. They’re going to be really well prepared.

"They’re a very good defensive team, one of the best in the country. They always stay in front of the ball, they’re long; [Kyle] Weaver’s got long arms, [Robbie] Cowgill is very, very long and athletic, [Derrick] Low is so tough, they have good size. [Aron] Baynes can play behind you and make you score over him or through him. They don’t turn the ball over; they’re among the top five teams in the country in terms of the least amount of turnovers per game. They have good depth. There are a lot of things they do well."

And he expects a raucous welcome from the Cougar faithful. "It’s very, very wild up there now. I think last year was the first sell-out in about 20 years or something and now they have a bunch of them. It’s really a great atmosphere and the students are very, very involved. Both of these venues coming up are very, very difficult to play in because they have great support and they’re very loud."
We have already talked about how Luc’s absence means our reserves will have to step up. Howland specifically mentioned Keefe and Dragovic (from the same post linked above):
Howland expected sophomore James Keefe to have an enlarged role in both games. "His minutes are obviously impacted by Luc’s absence this weekend, so he’ll be very important for us. Chase will have an opportunity to play as well." Howland also mentioned the improvement of sophomore Nikola Dragovic, whose defense is improving to match his sharpshooting skills.
For his part Keefe is saying all the right things:
Forward James Keefe was asked if Washington State’s 5-4 record in the conference was unexpected, given their high pre-season ranking. "It is surprising a little bit, but with the Pac-10 the way it’s been this year, the margin between the teams is just so small that anyone can get beat on any given day. Us being UCLA, everyone gives us their best shot. And they’re definitely going to give us their best shot come Thursday night."
Keefe made those comments yesterday when he along with AA2, JS, RW, and KL dropped by Morgan Center to talk to the beat reporters. I found Shipp’s comments particularly encouraging (linked above):
Wing Josh Shipp said he’s noticing teams paying more and more attention to him and his sharpshooting from the three-point line. "A lot of people are definitely running at me a lot harder," he said. "I have to use my shot fake more and try to create other shots for other players."
It will be interesting to see whether Shipp’s shots are falling early in the game. If they aren’t going in, I imagine he is going to pull back a little but and focus on getting his team-mates involved just like he said and he did up in Eugene.

And speaking of Eugene perhaps its not realistic to expect another superhuman performance from Love, but the big man sounds focused realizing the challenge his team is going to face tomorrow night:
He was also wary of Washington State, especially after their three-point barrage against the Bruins in Pauley Pavilion that closed a double-digit deficit to just three points in the final minute and a half of the game. "If you were to get up on them 15-20 points, they can always come back. They did that against Arizona State. That’s a team you just have to keep the press on, never let up. You saw the game against us, they almost pulled out a win or sent it into overtime by shooting the ball and making seven or eight threes in a row."

And given that WSU has lost two home games in a row, he noted "They definitely are more dangerous just because they’re going to be real hungry coming into Thursday." And recognizing the obvious problems caused by the loss of Luc Richard Mbah A Moute to injury, Love laughed about a silver lining if Mbah A Moute has to stay home and not make the trip north with the team this weekend. "He can rehab his leg some more and there’s more room for me on the charter."
That’s right he said "charter." From Diane Pucin in today’s report:
It was a happy group of Bruins who received word after last Saturday's win that they will fly a chartered plane into Pullman today and then from Pullman to Seattle after Thursday's game at Washington State. As far as anyone can recall, this is the first time UCLA's basketball team -- outside of NCAA tournament play -- has chartered a plane for a trip.

"It's grueling to get to Pullman," Howland said. "We've flown through Seattle to Spokane, from Oakland to Spokane and then bus and it usually takes us 10, 11 hours by the time we leave Pauley."
Also from Pucin’s report I thought this note on our trainer was interesting:
This season has been busy for Carrie Rubertino, UCLA's trainer. Point guard Darren Collison, who missed the first six games of this season with a sprained left knee and has played with a bruised left hip for three weeks, called Rubertino the team's most valuable player.

Rubertino said one key to dealing with high-profile athletes is to earn their trust. Collison said he appreciated that Rubertino called NBA trainers for input on how Collison should have proceeded with rehab and she said she'd do the same with Mbah a Moute.

"Most of these guys have long-term goals after UCLA," Rubertino said. "The players have to trust I have their best long-term interests in mind."
Well we hope Ms. Rubertino will not have any more major issues to deal with rest of this season once Luc and Michael Roll are done with their rehab. For now though let’s hope their team-mates can stay focused, composed, and put together the same type of gutty performance they showed in their last road trip.