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Ben Ball Game Day Roundup: Preparing For A Tough (Mental) Challenge

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Let's build on the post re. mental toughness from rfirpo below. IMHO that has been the defining characteristic of championship caliber Ben Ball warrior teams from last three seasons. There is no doubt in my mind that our guys got hosed by the SPTRs on Thursday night. Now even the PAthetiC-10 officials agree with us. Still as Howland put it in the LA Times it should have never gotten to that point:

On Friday, Howland referred to the call as a key play but saw other costly factors.

The 11th-ranked Bruins were overzealous in their desire to double-team Arizona State guard James Harden, leaving too many other shooters open. The coach also noted that on five occasions in the second half his team took a lead of four points but was never able to widen that gap.

"We had our opportunities to break the game open, give ourselves a little more of a cushion," he said, adding that the Bruins should have taken control "so that we're not depending upon a call to go one way or another."

Bruins will not have a lot of margin of error this early morning (10 am PST, CBS) in a nationally televised agame against Arizona. The Wildcats are probably the hottest team in the Pac-10 winning 6 games in a row ever since Chase Buddinger got stomped on by some cheat shot artist from Houston Cougars. From Dohn:

Bruins have won the past eight meetings against Arizona, and are trying to avoid being swept in a weekend conference series for the first time since 2005, when UCLA dropped home games to Stanford and California.

But, as Howland was quick to point out, Arizona is on a six-game winning streak dating back to a Jan. 24 overtime defeat of Houston.

The streak coincides with Houston's Aubrey Coleman stomping on the face of Wildcats wing Chase Budinger, a move Howland repeatedly called "cheap."

"They're the hottest team in the league," Howland said of the Wildcats. "They came back and won that game, and that really started the momentum that they're on right now. They all rallied around that and fought back to win that game, and I'm glad they won that game."

Arizona is coming into this game on a high note after taking care of Timmeh's Trojan's on Thursday night. The key today I think will be not allow them to get off to a hot start and give them a sense of confidence. Those guys came out red hot Thursday night making their first 8 shots from the field, which included five 3-point attempts, and didn't miss until the 12:18 mark of the half. Their key three scorers - Wise, Hill and Buddinger - have been on fire.

Wise poured in 27 points against the Trojies including a go-ahead 3-pointer with 45 seconds left, to lead the Wildcats. Wise scored 11 points in the final 5:38 of the game. As for Hill and Buddinger, here are the notes from Sportsline.com:

--C Jordan Hill, who entered Thursday's game averaging 18.3 points and 11.5 rebounds -- one of the top candidates for Pac-10 Player of the Year -- suffered an ankle injury with 12:08 left in the first half. He came down on the foot of USC's Leonard Washington after grabbing the rebound from DeMar DeRozan's missed free throw. Hill stayed on the ground for a couple of minutes and left for the training room, but he returned to the game with 10:58 to go in the half to great applause -- and relief -- from the home crowd. He played the entire second half but wasn't 100 percent.

--F Chase Budinger, who has been determined to get to the rim more often in the past several games, scored 25 points against USC. He is averaging 22.2 in his past five games.

No doubt PAA will have his hands full with Hill and will need some help from rest of his team-mates. It will be interesting to see how Howland schemes against Budinger. I am going to guess JS might get the intial assigment (I am not sure ND can guard him) and then mix in ML and JH. I really want to see lot of ML, JA, and DG in this game. This is a perfect game for our bench to get crucial minutes on the road. I hope Howland has the confidence in those guys to give them substantial mins and use the depth advantage against the Wildcats. Those guys played pretty well when Zona came to Pauley and given how they responded against ASU in the first half, I think they deserve meaningful minutes today.

It will also be interesting to see how JH responds today. He had his worst game of his short UCLA career on Thursay night. For us to win today, we are going to need JH to step up and help out our senior leaders. This means he needs to be relentless both on defensive and offensive ends and not be shy about mixing it up. He also cannot get down on himself if things don't go well for him in the early going. He needs to play with relentless tenacity if he wants to leave his mark as a prototype Ben Ball warrior. And all of this goes back to the mental toughness aspect of the game rfirpo alluded to below.

Our guys will need to come out with lot more intensity and fire than they did against Arizona State. They have to be prepared to take on a Zona team that will be fired up and ready to jump through the roof of McKale center. As mentioned before this might be their best chance to halt the current streak in this matchup for next 2-3 years. So we will need to be mentally focused, ready and disciplined to handle that charge from the Wildcats, their home crowd and of course the SPTRs. I have no doubt they will be well prepared in terms of basketball fundamentals. Here is to hoping they are also prepared for a tough mental challenge.

So here is to our guys playing tough, playing like previous cold-blooded Ben Ball warriors, with tenacity and bringing back that magic. We will see you about half an hour before the tip off.

GO BRUINS.