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Ben Ball Game Day Roundup & Notes

Well hello from Seattle.

Man this is a beautiful city. Just wow.

We are sitting by the Elliot Bay taking in the view of the Olympic Mountains in a beautiful, clear day. Yet despite the fact that we are on a little vacation, we are decked out in our Bruin blue, getting ready for Ben Ball (many thanks to Bruingirl83 for the suggestion re sports bar).

Our Ben Ball warriors should be ready for a slug fest tonight in Anaheim, taking on one of the most physical and toughest front court in the country. From Bruin Basketball Report's preview:

Similar to last season, the Aggies are a very physical team, like the Bruins, they bump cutters and hedge screens aggressively and play a tough man-to-man defense. In addition, they are an excellent rebounding club, out-rebounding teams by +7.2 margin per game.

UCLA's 6'9 freshman star Kevin Love should expect to get a lot of attention from the Aggies who sport four players taller than 6'9 in its regular rotation. Its expected they will expend all their fouls to battle Love underneath.

Center Joseph Jones (6'9, 255, Sr) has not had the type of senior season some expected of him. Inconsistent most of the season, he's averaging 10.4 points on 48.9% field goal shooting, both well off his career numbers. Jones is averaging just 5.3 rebounds in 24.3 minutes. However when his game is on and he's active, Jones can be difficult for an opponent to defend. He possesses a good short-range jumper and can finish strong around the basket.

Starting at power forward is another 6'9 big man, Bryan Davis (6'9, 250, So) who is averaging 8.7 points on 52.6% shooting and 5.0 rebounds. One of the team's top shot blockers at 1.1 per game in 22.7 minutes, Davis is a good help defender who will work to keep Kevin Love in check.

Off the bench, the Aggies bring in two even longer players in DeAndre Jordan (7'0, 260, Fr) and Chinemelu Elonu (6'10, 235, So).

Jordan, a high school phenom, was expected to be an impact player this season, however, he has fallen out of favor recently with Coach Turgeon, averaging just 5 minutes over the last three games. At 7'0 and wide wing-span, he can change shots in the paint. He's averaging 8.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks a game. Jordan and Kevin Love are good friends and often faced each other in AAU play.
KL is going to need a lot of help today in taking on Jones, Davis, Jordan et al. Let's hope the extra rest LRMAM got from sitting out Thursday night's game will pay dividend today. We are going to need the Prince's ferocity and athleticism around the boards today to make sure the Aggies don't have any kind advantage in the rebounding department. More  on the same issue from Brian Dohn in the DN:
The Bruins were beaten badly on the boards last season, 34-23, but their defense was able to force the Aggies into 20 turnovers, which helped offset the rebounding disparity and UCLA's 8-of-16 free throw shooting.

"Oh, man, that was the most physical team we played last year," Mbah a Moute said. "They were very physical, especially inside. They're strong and tall. Last year they only had two or three big guys, now they have four or five, and they rotate all of them.

"To get a rebound, you had to work for it, whether it was offense or defense. They were banging all the time. Everywhere you went, you got bumped."

Strength was a pre-requisite to play last season, which is why sophomore power forward James Keefe did not get off the bench. He's stronger and better conditioned now and, along with frontcourt reserve Alfred Aboya, expected to play in this meeting.
Well it will be up to our guards to make lives a little easier for our bigs by putting extreme ball pressure on the Aggies backcourt. DC, RW, and JS will have to harass Carter and co. all night long to make sure their offense never gets in rhythm. I know people like Plaschke, who (don't understand this game and (no grasp on what it means to be an all around player (and usually pipe on basketball this time of the year like rest of the band wagoners), tend to think JS is only important to our team because of his 3 pt shooting. However, they have no clue how JS and his team-mates in the backcourt have been key to our great season because of the defensive pressure they have been able to exert on the opposing guards (never mind the fact Plaschke also conveniently left out how JS has worked so hard to come off two serious surgeries). We are going to need that lockdown effort from RW, DC, and JS so that they don't allow the Aggies to get in sync with their half court offense.

Going back to our bigs Kuwada has an interesting article on our trapping of ball screens high off the wings. We haven't gone to that bag of trick as much as we did in the past. And per Kuwada here is one of the main reason:
"It's because of the bigs (the big men) ... I mean, all bigs can't do it," Russell Westbrook said. "Kevin (Love), he can't do that. His first year ... I mean, he can do it, but the rotations ... sometimes he gets confused a little bit. Lorenzo, he's used to doing it from last year, but that's probably why."

Love had little difficulty making the transition at the offensive end, averaging 17.2 points in becoming only the second freshman to be selected as the Pac-10 player of the year. But he admitted that learning the Bruins' defenses, hedging in particular, has been difficult.

"That was probably the hardest thing," he said. "I felt like I was never going to get it. But I just kept listening to my coaches, kept an open mind and kept open ears and kept listening.

"It's more mental than physical. It's just repetitiveness of doing it over and over and over again. I'd say, 'Damn, I'm never going to get this' and go to sleep at night thinking, 'hedges, hedges, hedges,' and feeling like I could never get it down.

"But by the time December hit, I felt like I was getting better. And then when league hit, I felt I got better. And I'm still getting better now."
Well Kevin has gotten much better through this season. Again folks need to keep in mind he is still a freshman. And it takes a while for a player to get well versed in Coach Howland's defensive system. I'd say he has developed really well through this season. I thought he played really well defensively in the Pac-10 tournament in absence of LRMAM. He was rotating much better. He will need to be in top form today. And may be we are going to see lot of more of KL and LMR combo on the floor today to offset the physical advantages of the Aggies.

Speaking of Aggies being physical, check out where Diane's mind is wandering:
They come walking down the hall, this assortment of Texas A&M muscle, and it's hard not to stop and stare.
Okay then. You can understand why I couldn't read rest of that article.

Anyway our boys will have to give us their best effort of the season to survive and advance tonight. I think everyone should have a pretty good idea by now how physical these Aggies can be. We need to make sure that they don't get in track offensively, while on our end we will need to stay patient and focus with our offensive sets.

It looks like we will get our dose of Seattle's rainy days starting tomorrow. But if our boys play their brand of Ben Ball (crossing fingers), the sun will be shining coast to coast in the Bruin Nation

Ajax will have a game thread up later this afternoon.