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Ben Ball Game Day Roundup: Defense In Pauley

There is a game tonight in Pauley. After discussing every angle of last Saturday’s game and examining the Ben Ball warriors from all angles, it is time to focus on Mike Montgomery’s Cal Bears.

Taking advantage of some decent core of talent left by Ben Braun (who was a mediocre coach but still 100 times more capable than Steve Lavin), Monty has been able to turn the Bears into a tourney caliber program in less than a season. Cal comes into Southern California looking to make a major statement at the expense of Ben Ball warriors (well it certainly feels like sharks are circling around Pac-10 and all around the country since last Saturday).

I am sure Howland and his players are looking forward to zero in on the Bears after having to constantly hear about Saturday’s game. They have reasons to be concerned given Bears recent success at Pauley. Everyone here remembers how it took a miracle shot from JS to win the game last year. Plus these guys have won at Pauley 3 times in last 9 years. We mentioned yesterday about how Cal is leading the league in 3 point shooting (while the Bruins are second). The key matchup today is going to be the duel between DC and Cal junior Jerome Randle. I am sure the Bears have been studying the game tape from Seattle and our other recent Pac-10 games where the teams have focused their energy on stopping DC. From Brian Dohn:

Containing Collison meant stopping UCLA's offense late in games, according to Washington guard Justin Dentmon, who said, "We cut off the head and there is nobody after it."

It means UCLA either has to come up with another clutch scorer, or Collison needs to be more assertive and creative in the stretch of tight games.

"He's done it before," Howland said. "He did it last year. I don't think this is a new role for him, by any means."

Although the role might not be different, the supporting cast is. Collison, because of his position, often has the ball in his hands late in games. However, the past two years he was the sidekick of an All-American.

In 2006-07, teams geared to stop guard Arron Afflalo, and Collison was often the second option on offense. Last season, center Kevin Love was the focal point. Opponents often double-teamed him, and the price was leaving someone open on the perimeter.

"Other teams, they scout, too," Collison said. "They're starting to double, clog the paint up as much as they can."

Collison shot 48.4 percent from 3-point range the past two seasons, but is shooting 39.3 percent this season.

It will be interesting to see how DC responds following Saturday’s game. As we have discussed many times before these kids don’t live in a bubble. I am sure he and his team-mates can read and hear about some of the chatter (not what we read on BN) going on in the local traditional media and message boards. I think he is going to come out with some extra fire tonight. However, he will also need his team-mates to step up and help out in a huge way.

In addition to worrying about Randle (who btw suffered a hip injury in their last week’s lost against Oregon State, but came right back to play in their victory against Oregon and responded with 22 points and 5 assists), Bruins will have to be on the lookout for two local kids from Southern California: Jamal Boykin and Patrick Christopher. From

--Patrick Christopher had 15 points against Oregon State, then 13 against Oregon.

--F Jamal Boykin is playing a growing role for the Bears, with 15 points and 10 rebounds against OSU and 13 points and nine rebounds vs. Oregon. Over the past three games he is averaging 16.7 points per game.

Christopher has a recent history of playing well infront of home town crowd. Last year he combined for 37 points last year at Pauley & Pauley East. He is going to present a major challenge for JH. I think if JH should take the same approach he took in matching up against Derozan by focusing on his defense first.

In fact, I think the key for our team tonight should be to exert their will on defense and focus on rebounding. As much as I love ND’s three point shooting, I won’t mind if we get to see a little more of JK (and DG) today and have them flying around to secure defensive rebounds. The LAT actually has a profile on JK (in which the reporter tries really hard to get a disgruntled comments from JK for losing his starting spot to ND). JK of course didn’t take the bait and instead talked about how he is working on his offensive game:

"I try to look at the big picture," he said. "No matter how bad your day is going or things aren't working out, there are still things to look forward to."

Like becoming more of an offensive threat. With a decent outside shot, Keefe wants to boost his scoring and assists, another category in which he lags.

"I'm just going to have to work on it," he said.

JK and our bench will need to be a factor tonight. Cal has used a fairly tight rotation for the entire season. They are not a very deep team and per Montgomery has used the same starting rotation for 20 games in a row:

Usual Starters -- F Theo Robertson, F Jamal Boykin, C Jordan Wilkes, G Patrick Christopher, G Jerome Randle. Key Subs -- F Harper Kamp; G Jorge Gutierrez, F Omondi Amoke.

The SF Chronicle has a profile on Gutierrez, the freshman pg who is inserted as the energizer off the bench. It will be up to JK, MR, ML, DG and JMM to give our team an advantage from the bench. They will need to come in and help sustain the same defensive intensity we (and Coach Howland) are expecting from our starters. Hopefully they will show that fire and gain Howland’s confidence resulting in more mins.  I am sure Coach Howland will be mindful of what took place at Pauley last time out when DC and some other starters were out there for a little too long.

The tip off is set for 7:30 pm PST. We will have the game thread up around 6:30.