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Ben Ball News & Notes

Ben Ball warriors are getting ready for the Pac-10 tournament. Given what happened in last year’s Pac-10 tournament and the whining directed against them from various corners of the country, there is no shortage of motivation for our team:

"Losing to Cal last year hurt us bad with the seedings," Collison said. "Yeah, we got back to the Final Four, but the fact was we could have had a No. 1 seed and we got a No. 2 seed after losing to Cal."

Freshman center Kevin Love wasn't part of the team that lost to the Bears, 76-69, last year, but he has his own motivation for playing well in the league tournament.

Love said that while watching and listening to the weekend-long debate on television and radio as to whether UCLA got lucky with officials' calls late in its wins over Stanford and California he decided the Bruins have something to prove.

"All that does give us a little extra incentive," Love said. "We're always looking out for something else to keep us motivated, especially now when it comes to crunch time. Anything we can get, anything that we can dig up and post around the locker room would be good for us."

Love paid particular attention to ESPN reporter Doug Gottlieb, who is from Tustin. "I'm not calling Gottlieb out," Love said, "but he was saying UCLA didn't deserve this and that, they didn't deserve [Josh Shipp's] shot, stuff like that."
Well I hope they come out firing on all cylinders on Thursday afternoon. Because I do believe if we don’t win on Thursday that will cost us a number 1 seed. We will probably drop to a 2 seed but stay out West. But let’s hope we don’t have to ponder all of those scenarios and clinch that number 1 seed on Thursday afternoon.

One of the guys who will be key to our post season success: LRMAM. Here is Coach Howland on how important Luc is for our team:
>> Howland was keen to note the important of Mbah A Moute to the Bruins’ success. "He had two double-doubles [last weekend]. He and Darren [Collison] both — if you look at them and study them — their second halves are typically better than their first halves. I think when they come out, and Luc in particular, when he really plays well in the first half and is energized, it really makes us better. I think you can go back to the Washington State game, the Washington game a year ago here, when he comes out and he’s really, really active, that makes a huge difference in our team.

"Luc’s a great player in terms of [playing in big games]. I think he’s played well for most of the year, especially when you consider that part of his year was hampered with the ankle injury, even though he played after being out a week, he was still not at full strength and it took a couple more weeks."
I will have more on Luc in another post I will put up in mins. I think it is very important for Luc to get in the same mindset right from the first half as he displayed during the second halves against Bay Area teams. Perhaps he should always play with the mindset that our team is down by double digits. Luc is awesome when he is crashing the boards, driving to the basket (as defense sags on KL), and is just relentless around the pain and elsewhere picking up garbage points. I think he loses his effectiveness when he starts thinking of himself as a NBA 3 putting up midrange jump shots. I think for the good of this team Luc needs to get smarter with his shot selection. In other words if we can see more of the Luc that we saw during the second halves of this past week’s game, the better our chances will get to advance deep in the Big Dance.

Coach Howland also shared his thoughts on the first game of the Pac-10 tournament:
Asked about how he’s preparing for the tournament, not knowing whether the Bruins will play California or Washington, he said the practices would be "more focused on us and our execution, what we’re doing, especially offensively."

He added, "We just played Cal, there’s a good chance we could play Cal — a 50% chance — and I think [Washington’s Jon] Brockman is on crutches. That obviously is a factor in that game, but I still think Washington, with or without Jon, will play extremely tough and that will be a very hard game to call. If he’s on crutches today, I’d be shocked if he played Wednesday. And one thing that is not good for sprains is to get up in a plane and fly three hours, which they have to do today."

He also noted that Cal "did a few little wrinkles that if we played them again we would be aware of that were kind of new for that game. Overall, I thought our hedges were decent. They did a few things differently to try and attack that differently." But he declined to be specific; maybe he will have some new things to show the Bears on Thursday if they meet once again.
For their part the reporters like Dohn tried very hard to create a storyline of how UCLA players were eager to play Washington. Dohn went overboard with a headline of "UCLA players hoping for rematch with Washington." However, when you actually read the article you will find the comments from our players were fairly boilerplate:
When Washington beat UCLA Feb. 10, the game was punctuated by the Huskies' Tim Morris throwing the ball off the face of UCLA's Alfred Aboya in the closing moments during an in-bounds play.

So, posed with the idea of playing No.8 seed Washington or No. 9 seed California in Thursday's quarterfinals of the Pacific-10 Conference Tournament, two of UCLA's brightest stars did not hesitate in publicly wishing for a rematch with the Huskies.

"I would love to see Washington," Bruins point guard Darren Collison said. "I would love to see Washington, but Cal's playing real well. We lost to (Washington) and we know we didn't play as well as we could have played against them."

Collison shot 1for 8 and turned the ball over eight times in that loss. UCLA center Kevin Love was 3 for 8 from the field, and also saw Washington center Jon Brockman grab 17 rebounds.

"I had a very poor game myself, I remember Brockman getting 17rebounds and I remember us losing, so I'd like to hopefully play them again," Love said. "It would be a little less sweet if (Brockman) wasn't playing, but the ball off the face, everything that came with that, I would like to have a chance at Washington again."

Brockman, who leads the Huskies in scoring (17.6 ppg) and the Pac-10 in rebounding (11.5 rpg) is doubtful for tonight's game against the Bears with a sprained ankle.
In other words Dohn was trying very hard to create a storyline but couldn’t come up with something. No doubt if we get Washington, the emotion is going to run very high in Bruin Nation. Our fans at Staples will be all fired up. But for our players they certainly didn’t indicate they’d prefer one team over another (no matter how hard Dohns of the world were trying to coax an incendiary comment out of them). They know either way they are going to have a tough game on Thursday night. Either Washington (even if they are w/o Brockman) or Berkeley will come at us with their best shot. This time hopefully we can not only withstand their thrust but take initiative in setting the tone of the game. It will come down to our defense. More on that in next post which I will put up in mins.