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Southern Cal: Early Thoughts On Sunday Night

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Now that we are on Humpday let’s start compiling our notes on our next opponent: Southern Cal Trojans. These guys are going to be a little more fired up for this game on Sunday which will pretty much define their season. How fired up they are going to be for UCLA? Well apparently they were thinking about UCLA prior to their last game against Oregon State. As bruinhoo noted here was Daniel Hackett before their game against UCLA @ the Costco Center:

"We have a big opportunity at home," guard Daniel Hackett said. "I don’t see why we can’t go on a streak."

Well we know how that worked out. The Trojans despite building a double digit lead in the second half choked away a win by coughing up the ball 17 times, getting outhustled on the boards, and flailing away against the Beaver’s effective zone defense. After the game I caught a little bit of the "Trojan Live" which was a little hilarious. Some bald headed guy who was playing the role of a "Trojan basketball analyst" was telling Leslie Sotto how Trojans could see more zone defense from UCLA because of the way they struggled against the Beavers on Sunday night. He actually said on tveee that Howland might throw zone against the Trojies. LOL Also, apparently the Trojan beat writer in the LA Times have been pathetically trying to denigrate Oregon State’s win this week ignoring the real story about how the Trojans didn’t learn their from the football team this season.

Anyway, so Timmeh’s Trojies are going to be an angry bunch this Sunday night (why is this game on so late on Sunday night BTW?). They are going to come out with focus and locked in to make a point. And they are more than capable pulling off an impressive win (like a Lavin "coached" team). Here is the current rotation for Timmeh’s bunch:

Usual Starters -- F DeMar DeRozan, F Keith Wilkinson, C Taj Gibson, G Dwight Lewis, G Daniel Hackett. Key Subs -- G Marcus Johnson; G Donte Smith.

They don’t really have true pg. However, Hackett and Lewis is a tough combination who will pose extremely physical matchups against DC and JH. I saw lot of the second half and OT against the Beavers last Sunday and I also caught their game against Georgia Tech (in which they won in an impressive fashion). From what I saw in their Georgia Tech, I think it will be extremely important for DC, JH and rest of their team-mates to stay CALM and POISED because I think it’s a good bet that Hackett and rest of this bunch will try to get on our nerves. In case anyone wants a reminder of how this bunch can play, remember what they did to Oklahoma's Blake Griffin earlier this season:

Blake Griffin hit in balls (via jt4643)

I know that's not really a shock around here but our guys will have get mentally prepared for that kind of nonsense because you can bet they will try every dirty trick goading UCLA players to lose their poise.

The other tough matchup for UCLA will be containing Taj Gibson. He scored his 1,000th career point in the win at Oregon and broke Sam Clancy's school record of 196 blocked shots. He scored 15 more points at Oregon State and now has 1,023. He is a load inside and will be a tough matchup for AA2. I have a lot of confidence in AA2’s ability to defend against the best, however, he will have to take his game to another level on Sunday night and also make sure he calibrate his game based on how referees are calling the game early on. We can’t afford to lose AA2 in foul trouble.

The matchup between JS and DeRozan will be interesting. DeRozan had 14 points and 12 rebounds in the win at Oregon, his first double-double of the season. Hopefully JS can force DeRozan to spend a lot of energy playing defense by staying on the same rhythm he found himself in second half of the Oregon game.

We will also have to be tenacious around the rims. Trojans are second in the conference in offensive rebounding. AA2, JK, DG, JS, ND, JH and the whole team will have to step up to make sure they are securing the ball on the defensive end and not giving up easy second chance opportunities to the Trojans. BTW ML might be available for Sunday night. Per Coach Howland doctors cleared him to practice yesterday:

"He's going to try and do a little bit, for a half-an-hour or 40 minutes, and see how it feels," Howland said. "I guess well have a better feeling of what he can or can't do after he works out this afternoon."
Lee said after the win at Oregon he was hopeful of playing in UCLA's next game, which is Sunday against USC.

Here is to hoping ML is fully healthy and can contribute. Having him would be a huge help.

The most interesting aspect of Sunday’s game to me is to find out what kind of defense Floyd will throw against UCLA. Last couple of years Floyd has thrown combination of junk defenses such as ""Triangle and 2" and "Box and I" to deal with the talent disparity against the Ben Ball warriors. In a Triangle and 2 defense, two defenders play man-to-man against the two best scorers, and other three defenders stay back in a zone. From what I can remember Floyd’s strategy worked against us at Pauley last year as Davon Jefferson played very effectively in the middle and his two defenders around the low blocks were covering the corner well. The strategy was very effective as it limited the Bruins to 33.3 percent shooting at Pauley (don’t forget LRMAM also went down with an injury). This year the Trojans are second in Pac-10 in FG Pct defense (.391).

Floyd has also show Box and 1 defense against UCLA. It’s the kind of defense that works against a team with an elite pg.  Four defenders sit back in zone in a standard box set and fifth guy plays man-to-man against the elite pg. In other words, Floyd might stick his best (or the most tenacious) defender against DC to put all out pressure on him. Oregon tried to double DC in second half as he was bringing the ball up court during the second half. So it will be to JH, JS and MR to make sure they are ready to help out by alleviating that expected pressure on DC.

BTW if you live around Southern California head out to Costco Center Sunday night. We need to turn that place blue.

Those are some of my initial thoughts on Sunday night. I would specifically love to hear more from you re. Xs and Os on defense. As mentioned above, Floyd does like to throw interesting combination of junk defenses to make up for the talent disparity between these two teams. If you have thoughts on what we should be on the look out for and what our guys need to do to adjust and counter with more aggression and focus, fire away.