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Ben Ball Gameday Roundup & Notes

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Let’s start this game day with some quick notes (courtesy of Rich Perelman at What’s Bruin) on last night’s demolition:

>> The Bruins shot 53.3% from the field, their best since 55.2% against Oregon State on Feb. 21. Against real competition, it's the best since 55.1% against WSU on Jan. 12.

>> UCLA shot a sensational 14-25 from three-point range, the most three-pointers made this season and a shooting percentage of 56%. Darren Collison made 5-7 from long range, equaling five he had against Arizona State. Collison's 19 points led the Bruins, and he had five assists.

>> Kevin Love set a season best with three three-pointers and had 11 points and seven rebounds in only 19 minutes. He was beset by foul trouble in the first half and played only six minutes.

>> Josh Shipp exploded out of his shooting slump with 18 points and 3-6 from long range. It's the most points he's scored in a game since he had 19 points at Washington on Feb. 10, more than a month ago.

>> Lorenzo Mata-Real had eight points and equaled his career high with four blocked shots. He's done that three times previously.

>> UCLA was out-rebounded, 30-29, and is now 3-2 when being out-rebounded.

>> The Bruins forced 18 Cal turnovers today and it's the 13th straight game in which UCLA's opponent has had 10 or more turnovers.
Basically the Bruins did everything they had to do clinch a number 1 seed out West and get them in the right frame heading into the Big Dance.

Probably the most encouraging aspect of last night game was how we came out with our lockdown defensive ferocity from the outset and were able to mostly sustain it blowing the game wide open early in the second half.

In today’s Daily News report(in which Dohn not so surprisingly used the "fatigue" excuse for the Bears) there is an interesting quote from LRMAM on our defensive effort from last night (emphasis added):
"We just played better defense," UCLA power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute said. "The past couple of games, I told the guys, we weren't playing as good on defense. Teams were scoring at too high a level against us the last two or three games, and I feel we need to step it up going into the NCAA Tournament."

Collison scored a game-high 19 points and Shipp added 18.

Cal was led by Ryan Anderson's 15 points. Duke transfer Jamal Boykin, who scored 18 points in Saturday's loss, had nine, although he didn't score for the first 32 minutes.

"Everybody, the media, talked about how we got lucky the last two games," said UCLA guard Russell Westbrook, in reference to wins last weekend against Stanford and Cal. "We came out this game and turned it up on defense. That's what we did as a team."
I thought Luc’s comments were telling and also extremely encouraging. We have always maintained Luc is the glue in our defense and it is great to see him taking more leadership role in ratcheting up our defensive efforts. It was evident that his team-mates paid attention to what he must have said to them about picking up their intensity.

Also as RW noted they were paying attention to the garbage spewed at them from certain parts of the traditional media this past week. KL echoed RW in the LAT re how the ‘national conversation’ had an impacton last night’s game:
The national conversation all week suggested UCLA was lucky enough but maybe not good enough to have beaten Stanford and California at Pauley Pavilion without an assist from the referees.

"I think Coach [Ben] Howland made sure we heard that," Love said. "We wanted to come out today and prove we are deserving of a No. 1 NCAA seed and that we are the UCLA Bruins and that we earned it being Pac-10 champions. We wanted to come in and put ourselves in the right position the right way today."
Well we are in great position. And we have to single out and give mega props to one particular Ben Ball warrior:
UCLA opened up a 16-4 lead with 13:26 left in the first half. Lorenzo Mata-Real, who has graciously spent his senior season as Love's backup, scored a layup to give the Bruins that 16th point. It was an exhilarating time for Mata-Real, who had eight points, three rebounds and three blocked shots in the first 20 minutes because Love played only six minutes after getting his second foul with 11:05 to go.

Mata-Real finished the game with those eight points, three rebounds and four blocked shots, which tied a career high.

"I felt like my old self," Mata-Real said. "It was a confidence booster. It was fun. My teammates were finding me, I was playing good defense, blocking shots. It was fun."
Lorenzo - it was fun for all of us to watch you tear apart a pathetic Bear offense. I’d love t LMR get more mins in the coming weeks. He brings so much tenacity in his defense and hustle all over the court that it rubs off on his team-mates. It clearly changed the momentum of the game when the Bears were trying to make a mini run.

Pivoting our attention to today’s game (6 pm PST), our guys are now in a win-win situation. They are saying all the right things in the press about how this game is just as important as any others. But we all know the deal. We have the number 1 seed out West all locked up. If we win we could potentially be on track for the overall number 1 seed (should UNC stumble in the ACC). If we stumble today our guys get much needed extra rest heading into the Big Dance.

But for the sake of Menelaus and those who have tickets for tomorrow’s game – we have to win today. :-)

There will not be any surprises from the Trojans. Bruin Basketball Report has the preview:
In each game, the Trojans were effective in spreading the floor offensively and taking the Bruins off the dribble on the perimeter. UCLA players were somewhat slow to rotate, giving Trojan players, especially Davon Jefferson's, open lanes to drive to the basket. In the second game, UCLA did a decidedly better job rotating due to the presence of Mbah a Moute on defense.

The Bruins need to make sure they pressure the passer aggressively on the perimeter to prevent easy passes inside, as well as rotate quickly down low. Teams this season have taken advantage of UCLA's defense when they haven't been as aggressive.

USC's diamond and two zone defense has bothered the Bruin offense. The Trojan's defensive scheme is geared towards crowding Kevin Love in the paint while closely guarding Darren Collison and Josh Shipp on the perimeter, and leaving Mbah a Moute and Russell Westbrook to make the shots to beat them from the perimeter.

The Bruins did a better job in the second game penetrating and hitting the open shot. No doubt they will see the same defense from Tim Floyd's Trojans again on Friday.

USC's Daniel Hackett, who was key to the Trojan's first victory, was injured and did not play in the second match-up. Since then, he has returned to the line-up and has been an important part to the Trojans recent play, in particular providing them depth in the backcourt. Hackett scored 6 points in 35 minutes against Arizona State.
The bottom line – if we come out with the same defensive mentality that we did last night – we are going to be all right. We also need to stay patient and not get sucked into playing jungle ball like we did at Pauley. We need to make sure we get back on transition defense, rotate quicker in the paint not giving those guys any easy looks. And most importantly let’s hope we need to keep our starters fresh heading into next week.

Game thread will be up later tonight.

GO BRUINS