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Ben Ball Gameday Roundup & Notes

Let's get right to it. Here is the Stanford perspective on what is taking place tonight at Pauley:

Tonight, not only is Stanford playing for a share of first place in what many consider the nation's best conference, but it is challenging the symbol of West Coast basketball supremacy.

"UCLA is the standard in this conference," Washington State coach Tony Bennett said. "You gauge yourself against them."

Ben Howland changed the style of play in the Pac-10 virtually by himself, forsaking the Pac-10's high-scoring image for a tough, defensive approach that led to low scores and high success. Now the top teams - UCLA, Washington State, Stanford, USC, Arizona, Arizona State - all play more like that.

"They've kind of set the tone in this conference with their physical play and defense," Stanford guard Anthony Goods said.

It all makes tonight something special for Stanford.

"This is the most important game of the year coming up," Goods said.
I don't think you will ever hear our coaches and players chest thumping, proclaiming themselves to be the "Standard" of the West Coast. Since Coach Howland has arrived to Westwood they have focused on taking care of business on the court, getting back our program to where it belongs. Hopefully our guys are not worrying about all the extra hype going around this game, and zeroing in on what they need to  do compete against an extremely talented and physically gifted Cardinal front court.

Of course I am talking about the Lopez twins. While everyone is talking about how KL will matchup against Brook, Dohn reminds us not to forget about Robin. It will be up to LRMAM to defend Robin tonight:
The Lopez twins, both sophomores, offer something different than the Bruins, or any other team in the nation, usually see. Brook is more skilled than his brother, and since returning after missing the first nine games because of academic ineligibility, he is averaging 19.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

Robin is averaging 9.5 points, and 5.7 rebounds.

UCLA will use 6-8, 232-pound Luc Richard Mbah a Moute to defend Robin, who weighs 255 pounds. Mbah a Moute is also the player UCLA uses to double-team in the low post, and if the meeting earlier this season is any indication, the size difference should mean increased minutes for backup center Lorenzo Mata-Real. He played 14 minutes in the first game, but is averaging 11.4 minutes in Pac-10 play.

"It's no secret we double a lot in the post, and when we have to rotate, they have a big against a (UCLA) guard," Bruins forward Josh Shipp said. "Our guards just need to be tough."

In three career games against UCLA, Brook is averaging 14.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Robin is scoring 5.3 points and grabbing 6.7 rebounds per game.

"Our advantage is down low, and we have to go with our guys," Goods said. "It's wonderful having two (7-footers). It's double your pleasure. A lot of teams, it makes it tough for them. Obviously, you want to double the low post, but then how do you make the decision on which one? And it opens things for the perimeter, which means guards have to knock down shots."
Well we have already talked about one of the key for us in tonight's game will be to make sure that our guards don't allow Stanford to get in any kind of offensive rhythim by getting started in the paint. And for that to happen DC, RW, and Shipp will have to exert ... you guessed it ... intense ball pressure on Stanford guards:
"You have to put ball pressure on them, make it hard for them to get the ball."

Darren Collison will get into Stanford point guard Mitch Johnson pressuring the basketball and should be quicker than he was two months ago. The first time these teams met the Bruins' junior was playing his first game without a cumbersome brace on his left knee.

The Bruins will hedge off the high screen, trying to disrupt the Cardinal offense.

Westbrook and Josh Shipp will apply pressure on the perimeter in what the Bruins see as a key to taking out a Cardinal team that has improved at the offensive end since these teams met in the conference opener, a 76-67 UCLA victory at Maples Pavilion.

"I definitely think it is," Shipp said. "If we pressure their guards and they're not able to get those easy feeds inside to the post, it definitely can help us.

"Any time we can limit the inside touches, it's going to be key for us."
Yeap. That's pretty much an open secret at this point.

While on the other end of the court we have already talked about how we need to run our offense through KL and our guards will have knock down some outside shots (within the flow of the offense). However, we also have to come out attacking them with our guards slashing right to the hoop. And as Dohn notes despite the presence of twin towers inside our guys - DC/RW- can't alter their game too much in terms of going right to the rim:
"You can't keep going. Just stop and pull up," Westbrook said. "Shot-fake when you get in there, just pull up, or bring it back out. Get in there, slow down, make them get in the air and pass it to the bigs."

But UCLA must be careful not to change its offensive philosophy, UCLA guard Darren Collison said.

"We can't be worried about them so much where we're not getting into the paint," Collison said. "We have to be into the paint, maybe cause a couple of fouls, get them up in the air, get it down to Kevin, so Kevin can get them in foul trouble. You have to play aggressively."
More on the game from Bruin Basketball Report's preview which takes into account the solid support Stanford has gotten from its bench:
Fred Washington (6'5,215,Sr), Taj Fingers (6'8,200,Sr), and Landry Fields (6'7,200,So) have given Stanford solid support off the bench. Both Fingers and Washington give the team energy and defensive presence in reserve and Fields can light it up from outside if he get's it going.

Stanford is a much improved team from the one UCLA defeated up at Palo Alto to start the season. Brook Lopez had just returned from his suspension and was still getting assimilated on the floor. Lopez is now playing his best ball of the season and has been mentioned prominently as a candidate for player of the year.

On the other hand, UCLA's Darren Collison was still adjusting after returning from his knee injury, and was playing without his knee brace for the first time when these two teams met in January.

Aside from defending aggressively on the perimeter and in the low post against Stanford, UCLA will need to do a better job hitting their open outside jumpers. In the first match-up, UCLA hit on 56.3% on their three-pointer, led by Josh Shipp's five treys. Shipp has been struggling with his outside shot of late and will look to shoot himself out of the slump.

If the Bruins are unable to spread Stanford's defense with their outside shooting, then they'll risk the defense collapsing around Kevin Love in the paint.
Again I understand that's a concern. But to me the key tonight really is going to be on the defensive side. Hopefully RW and DC will be able to generate offense from intense attacking defense. While on the offensive side they will go right at the basket attacking the Stanford D head on and create options for our bigs. Also if the Stanford D sags on KL, I think that will create offensive opportunities for LRMAM to drive to the rim.

If you want to read on more on tonight's game read the LA Times reports here and here penned respectively by Pucin and Elliott. None of their reports tell us anything new (with no discussion on game strategy).

Lastly, I will end today's round up with a plea to everyone who is going to the game. Please wear our shade of blue today. Please scream your heart out. Stand the whole game if you can. If not stand on each of their offensive sequences egging on DC, RW to wreak havoc in their backcourt. I know our crowd at Pauley gets maligned in the national press for too whine and cheese at times. However, I have also seen ferocious, loud, and intense (while staying classy) crowd at Pauley inspiring our teams to victories providing as effective home court advantage as some of the more hyped home courts we always heard about on WWL.

We know our guys will bring it on the court today. Lets hope the BruinNation is in top form tonight at Pauley. Game on. See you for the game thread.