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Defensive Thoughts

About two weeks ago we talked about the simple principles of Ben Ball: defense and rebounding. I will get to the last minute call against DC below but I think we all need to acknowledge up front that we did not play up to our usual standard last night Tempe. We also have to credit Arizona State for out hustling us on the boards and also executing their offensive plan as their supporting cast stepped up in a huge way to take some pressure of James Harden. For us I think we have to figure out a way to get back to finding our defensive form in last four games. If we are going to make a charge through rest of the Pac-10 and tourney season (and I think we are capable of doing it) it will have to come from our defense first.

So let's zero in on our defense. The numbers don't lie. They shot 60% percent from the field and 61% from the three point line knocking down one open shot after another. Sure the inconsistent play calling from the SPTRs had an impact on the flow of the game. Yet I also believe we played some really sloppy defense in stretches, which has to be disappointing to Howland.

Our defensive rotations were slow and we weren't closing out like we had in our previous four games. Our guys were not sharp in giving each other weakside help and our post doubles were not all that effective either. We simply didn't bring the defensive intensity we displayed in last three games which I found to be disappointing. I actually thought our defensive intensity markedly improved when our freshmen (not JH) got into the game later in the first half. JA, ML and DG energized the squad and helped our guys close the huge lead ASU built early in the first half.

I also don't buy the excuses of DC, ND dealing with flu and other nagging injuries considering ASU was also coming into the game banged up. Glasser had been dealing with concussion from the Oregon trip and Rihard Kuksiks was also dealing with the flu (See post game thread on House of Sparky). Yet both of them were able to play 29+ minutes. They came in ready and fired up and we didn't respond to the challenge.

Speaking of not responding to the challenge JH had a nightmarish game. He finished the game with 0 points, 1 assists and 3 turnovers. That's not good. Don't get me wrong. I love JH and I do think he has the potential to be a great Bruin. However, I think for him to justify being considered as one of the best pro prospects in the country he will have to show something little more beyond potential in huge games.

JH had a big game against Southern Cal at Pauley East earlier this season (13 pts). However, besides that game he has come up short in marquee games such as at Texas (3 pts), ASU at Pauley (2 pts), and at Washington (8 pts). I think if we had gotten minimal contributions from JH last night we would have had an even better shot at winning the game (and not have to depend on the intellect of SPTRs). We needed something out of him and we didn't get it. We got it when ML was in the game in the first half. I am hoping JH will reflect a little bit and realize how much we need his athletic talent to be succcesful rest of this season. He clearly has "it" in terms of athletic potential as we have seen in games in recent home stand. He is smooth. He is effortless. He has to develope the "it" in terms of the defensive intensity, desire, aggression that has marked the careers of ultimate Ben Ball warriors such as AA and RW. Perhaps it is too much for all of us to ask a freshman to bust out and become AA and RW in one season (they both took two years to develop) but if JH wants to justify himself as a lottery pick time as far as this year in concerned is creeping up on him. He has to make himself more reliable as options beyond DC and JS.

As far as offense is concerned I was disappointed with how we didn't take advantage of easy opportunities in the first half. I think we blew something like 3 gimme layups in first half blowing 8 pts. If this squad wants to develop into a great team (they are a very good team IMHO) they will have to take advantage of those opporunties to emerge as the "silent assasins" like previous Ben Ball warriors.

I also think we didn't show the requisite poise and composure to pull out the victory. I will not rehash PAA's techincal foul. That was a dumb mistake and a senior like him should know better (and he knows it). I also thought the offensive possession before the (what was probably decisive) questionable call on DC was horrendous. From the Daily News:

Holding a 67-66 lead, the Bruins were called for a shot clock violation with 1:33 to play when Shipp couldn't get off a shot.

"I lost track of the time," Shipp said. "We got sped up with their zone."

Not good enough JS. A senior shouldn't be losing track of time.

Also, it wasn't good when JS lost his cool in the first half shoving right into an ASU player when he was running up the court. JS was admirable in the way he didn't retaliate to Trojie's thug tactics in Pauley. There was nothing like that from ASU guys last night and I was disappointed that JS lost his cool that way in the first half

Perhaps JS was getting frustrated with yet another typical night for SPTRs. Actually it was worse than typical for those clowns. They were horrendous. I think people here have every right to be frustrated as we saw Harden getting away an obvious charge on PAA just mins before call was made on DC. He was getting treated like an NBA star by the SPTRs. Also to be fair on our side we got some bad calls when a double dribble probably should have been call on DC in the second half. Still the call on DC was atrocious which led to Howland (who has always been extremely reserved when it comes to commenting on SPTR) to say this:

"I thought it was a block, because the guy was moving," Howland said. "I've already asked my video person who saw a replay of the game, and he said, 'Yes, you were right, he was moving, no question about it."

Not much we can add to that. If anyone has any doubts you can watch the clips from Tele below.

Still we can't really sulk about it all that much given how we failed to play defense up to our standards and didn't bring all around intensity to this game.

If anything, our guys need to put this game out of their minds right away, and zero in on Arizona. I think Saturday's game (10:00 am PST tip off) will probably represent Arizona's best shot against UCLA in next years. I am not sure Buddinger, Hill and Wise will have a more viable opportunity to upset the Ben Ball warriors as they will probably all bolt Arizona after this season. Given how that program is in total shambles with the state of their recruiting they are probably going to approach Saturday's game as their one last shot at Howland's program.

So our guys cannot go in there with the same intensity and laxed defense they played last night. If they do that they fill find themselves further behind in the Pac-10 race (but not out of it). Here is to our warriors digging deep and rediscovering the defensive form from last couple of weeks.