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Ben Ball Game Day Roundup & Notes

At this point it's evident DC and his team-mates have no intention of mailing today's game in.  We are going to need DC and RW to be lot more aggressive with ball pressure if they want to get on Stanford early today.

From the preview in Bruin Basketball Report:

Mbah a Moute will be sorely missed against Stanford's big front line.  He recorded a double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds last Thursday against them.  His defense, especially off the double in the low post will be missed.  Alfred Aboya will likely get the start at power forward spot with James Keefe backing him up.  Keefe played a spirited game against USC and was a big contributor in the win - the Bruins will need the same effort.  Lorenzo Mata-Real should also see major minutes on the floor.

Stanford dominated for most of the game at Pauley last Thursday.  The Lopez twins controlled the paint, changing a number of shot attempts by the Bruins who ventured in.  UCLA stepped up its defensive pressure in the second half to rally and set up Collison's late game free throws.

UCLA will need to bring the same defensive pressure, especially on the perimeter, to prevent Stanford from setting up offensively and to make it hard for the guards to make a pass into the post.  While Stanford is big inside, the Bruins have a decided advantage at the guard spots with both Collison and Westbrook.

Freshman Kevin Love held his own against the Lopez twins in the last game, recording 17 points and 10 rebounds, but he will need either Aboya, Keefe, or Mata-Real to step up big without Mbah a Moute next to him on the baseline.
Also from Rob Carpentier on Bruin Report Online:
Stanford is probably a more formidable team than USC but the Trojans present the Bruins with match-up problems that Stanford simply cannot. More specifically, the Trojans have the ability to drive to the hoop and highlight what has been a deficiency in the Bruin defense -- namely the defensive rotation. Stanford simply doesn’t have that kind of firepower. The strength of the Cardinal is truly in the low post and that is where the strength and guile of the UCLA defense resides. This certainly isn’t meant to take anything away from Russell Westbrook and to a lesser extent, Darren Collison. The two Bruin guards have a way of disrupting the flow of any team’s offense, but it has been a hallmark of Howland’s UCLA teams that the UCLA post double-team works as well as it does. This should mean that Stanford presents an easier match-up for the Bruins, if that can be believed.

However, that doesn’t mean that UCLA will win the game. That will come down to three factors: the intensity that UCLA brings to the game; the ability of UCLA’s frontcourt players to make the Lopezes, especially Brook, work hard for points and rebounds (and perhaps get one or both of them in foul trouble); and the ability of UCLA to offset the loss of Mbah a Moute.

As usual, this game could very well come down to which UCLA team shows up, especially defensively. Will it be the team from the Cal game on Thursday and the second half last night? Or will it be the one that allowed USC to score 34 points in the first half last evening? The Bruins are now going to face the second team that they played last week that led sports writers around the nation to question UCLA’s "luck". The Bruin players could very well be looking at this as another "statement" game, ala Cal. If that’s the case, then the Stanford guards and wings are going to find it difficult to get initial entry passes into the Lopez twins. However, the Cardinal should also look at this as a redemption game. They were the team that supposedly got "jobbed" on the foul call with 2.5 seconds left. However, the way the Cardinal composed themselves after the game, generally not commenting on the call, (as opposed to Cal who openly complained about the supposed non-call for Ryan Anderson until they got their clocks cleaned by the Bruins in the quarterfinals), indicates a team with maturity and a more emotionally dangerous team than the Cal team UCLA faced two days ago. The bottom line, however, is that Stanford brought a great deal of intensity to the game last week and the Bruins only brought their intensity at the end of the game. Yet UCLA won, clearly indicating that if both the Bruins and the Cardinal play their best, most focused and intense basketball, that the Bruins are the better team.
Read the whole preview here which is not behind a subscription firewall at the moment I am linking it.

JK had a great game last night. And we hope he can show the same kind of effort this afternoon. However, it sounds like Coach Howland is going to go with AA2 to start the game today:
"James Keefe's minutes were huge. I decided to start him in the second half because we can attack their triangle-and-two better than when we have Alfred [Aboya] on the floor. We'll probably start Alfred tomorrow.
Whoever starts - AA2 or JK - he will have to play a very smart game. Stanford is a very fundamentally sound team. So our forwards will have to make sure they are always properly positioned and don't let themselves get dominated around the rim.

As much as some of us want (including myself) our guys to treat this game like an exhibition, our boys thankfully will not listen to yahoos like me and instead pay attention to their head coach. :-)

They are going to come out fighting for the tourney championship. Andy Katz on how Coach Howland has the program operating like a machine this time of the year:
As the players walked to the locker room from the postgame news conference, there were no real smiles, no outward display of joy. Instead, the Bruins marched to the locker room in a purposely manner. When they arrived, it was Howland, not the media staff that was adamant about keeping to the strict 30-minute interview rule. For the second straight day, Howland was clock watching, making sure that the Bruins stayed on schedule.

Howland has been dogged of his pursuit of a No. 1 seed, the first- and second-round advantage in Anaheim and a regional in Phoenix. Getting the No. 1 overall seed isn't as much of a concern. Getting another championship this week is for UCLA because the players and staff know that a tournament title keeps them on target for a national title.
Well how can you not be all fired up when you read reports like that?

Here is to a great game with no injuries (again knocking on my desk).

Game thread will be up later this am.