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Ben Ball Roundup: Update On Nelson/Honeycutt, Howland's Thoughts On Bulldogs & Other Notes

So just two more days to go till the Finals weeks come to and end. Bruins will get back to practices tonight to prepare for Saturday's game against Mississippi State Bulldogs. I believe they are heading out to Anaheim on Friday. Hopefully the focus on finals and taking couple of days off from practices will allow freshmen such as RN more time to heal up and TH to get stronger as he works his way back to the rotation. Coach Howland gave updates on the status of his two key freshmen and his impressions on the Bulldogs yesterday.

Howland is optimistic that Nelson will be able to play on Saturday:

Nelson hasn’t missed any practice time because it’s finals week at UCLA and the Bruins didn’t practice on Monday or Tuesday. The Bruins are optimistic that he’ll be able to play Saturday against Mississippi State at the Wooden Classic in Anaheim.

"The main thing is there’s no significant damage to the eye," Howland said. "It could have been a lot of potential for bad things in a situation like that but everything seems pretty good."

Given how tough this kid has proven to be in early going, I will be surprised if he is not available on Saturday. Speaking of being available, Howland is hoping to get more mins for TH on Saturday. TH had a rough start on offense (shooting 1 for 6) in his first regular season game as a Bruin, however, he showed glimpses of his athleticism grabbing 6 boards in just 19 mins. From the LA Times:

Howland chalked up some of the rough play to jitters and said that he would have to use Honeycutt judiciously until the underclassman worked himself back into top shape.

But the Bruins need another body in the rotation, someone to take the load off Michael Roll, Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson, so Honeycutt may have to push himself in Anaheim this weekend.

"We're hoping he will be able to get more playing time," Howland said.

TH himself is focusing on getting back into the flow of the game:

"I felt like I did pretty good," he said. "I've just got to get back into the flow of the game."

It's not just TH. The entire team still has a lot of work to do in terms of having a flow and rhythm in offense. More on that and other notes after the jump.

Coach Howland talked about the need for the team to eliminate taking rush/hurried shots:

Of the 61 field goals that UCLA attempted in the 73-61 loss to Kansas, Howland counted 14 that were ill-advised. That might explain why the Bruins rank last in the Pac-10 in field-goal percentage.The Bruins have connected on 42.5 percent of their field-goal attempts - that includes a 27.1 clip on 3-point shots - through seven games."We got way too anxious on a number of occasions, even in the first half, and early in the second half were we took bad shots," Howland said. "I think we’re going to have to really understand that we have to be more patient."When we can get Michael Roll and Nikola (Dragovic) and Malcolm (Lee) open for wide-open shots, they’re going to make them. But when they’re rushed and they’re hurried, it’s going to be much the same."

It is going to be interesting to see just how long Howland can remain patient with Dragovic. He had two airballs last game in addition to all the instances when he just seemed to forget the need for boxing out on the defensive side of the court. I am hoping somehow Honeycutt will find his scoring rhythm in the coming weeks. If that happens and Dragovic is still shooting less than 20 percent from behind the arc, I would have to think Howland will have no choice but to reduce his mins during the conference games.

Coach Howland also offered the following thoughts on Bulldogs:

On Mississippi State's offense:
"They have a very good point guard, Dee Bost, he's a smart player. Shoots almost 53 percent from threes thus far. They're a pretty good shooting team. They have another kid (Ravern Johnson), he's long athletic and a starting three-man, really a good athlete."

On Mississippi State's defense:
"They pressure you and try to get after you defensively. They can really get out and get after the ball. They're athletic. They're a very good rebounding team and obviously they block shots with the big guy inside."

It sounds like we can't expect much zone defense from the Bruins this weekend in Anaheim:

"You know what? Old Dominion, who's a really good team this year, tried to zone them and actually it didn't work. They do a lot more zoning that we do. We'll look at it but they're a good shooting team. It's a thing where we'll have to see how we do as the game progresses. At some point, we're going to use it. It's not going to be...I feel like our young guys, like Reeves Nelson and Tyler, they need to learn how to play man-to-man. We have to keep working on getting them better."

Given how good of the shooting team the Bulldogs are it makes sense. I think the key for our guys is going to be putting pressure with our on ball defense and then hustling around the rim to make sure we are not getting out-rebounded. This means our frontcourt (cough*Nikola*cough) can't take time off from boxing out and giving up easy rebounds to Jarvis Varnado.

I think we will have a good shot in winning the game if we can win the turnover margin, hold our own on the rebounding numbers, and play a smart and patient offense. It sounds so easy but has proven to be incredibily difficult with our team in the early going. Hopefully a somewhat healed up Nelson, healthier Honeycutt and a rested team will be difference for our guys on Saturday.