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Holding On To Our Momentum: Encouraging Signs From Arizona State, Looking Ahead To 'Zona

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If we were to have any shot in making run through the Pac-10 season this year and perhaps end up with a winning record, the key IMHO is the guy to my right. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of last night's win was not Nikola Dragovic's fluke shooting night (no other way to describe a consistently below average poor "shooter"), but Jerime Anderson's solid game in his first start in a Pac-10 conference game. That is right. Think about it. Anderson, who is only sophomore was playing in his first Pac-10 conference game as the starting point guard for Bruins. Considering the struggles he has experienced this early season and injuries he has had to deal with before it got even started, I thought his over all performance was very encouraging.  He had 10 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 1 game clinching block, and most importantly just 2 turnovers.

Jerime was also the most clutch of his team-mates down the stretch as he made 4 of his 6 FTs. Come to think of it next time he has the ball in closing minutes, he should probably hold on to it instead of passing it to Mike Roll. What I liked about JA yesterday was he didn't try to do too much. He was just solid. He stayed within himself while operating the offense and working on finding his team-mates. He also looked confident driving to the basket. I also thought it really helped that Howland put Malcolm Lee on Glasser in the first half, which took a lot of pressure of Anderson. That's a formula Howland used to deploy in the early days using AA or RW to shut down the opposing pointguard, while letting JF and DC focus on running the offense. Now Jerime did get sloppy on couple of occasions in first half when he tried too hard to make the flashy plays. However, I am hoping and praying that he can build on this going into our next game.  If he can put together few more games like this, it will be huge for his confidence not just for this season but for his career in Westwood.

In addition to solid play from Jerime, the Bruins also got a huge boost by Howland's decision to go to a zone. His players seemed surprised (at least in their post game comments):

"I thought hell froze over," said Roll, who had 12 points. "They were just making some shots, and in the timeout he said, `Let's just go to zone for one play.' We were effective with it and we tried it again.

"They were struggling with it - nobody in the world expected coach Howland to play zone. It was all kind of us players out there all talking - we had them a little confused by it."

The zone also seemed to be perfect because it fit the athletic abilities of players such Lee, Honeycutt and Lane. From what I saw those guys were having a ball in first half Ding up, and then racing up to attack the zone on other end. Honeycutt might not have scored any points in first half, but IMO he was a factor in infusing intensity into our defensive energy. We just didn't have the same energy and passion on the defensive end early in the second half when the Sun Devils were making their expected run. More after the jump.

Howland interestingly specifically gave credit to Lee, Anderson and Roll for the way they attacked the zone:

With guards Jerime Anderson, Michael Roll and Malcolm Lee penetrating the lane and kicking out to the perimeter, the Bruins got uncontested looks.

Even better, they made them.

"Our attack of the zone was good with Mike, Jerime and Malcolm," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "We should be a good team against the zone. I expect us to be a good shooting team, but 15 for 18 in a half? I didn't expect that."

I am glad that Dragovic made those shots yesterday. I am not going to hold my breath over whether he is going to be in the same form in next game. I doubt it given his history from last four years. So, I really hope the Bruins don't think they can count on those 3 point shots being there whenever they need them.

IMHO for the Bruins to be successful they will need to keep attacking aggressively by going to the basket, and also show lot more of that precision passing we saw in the first half that was setting up players with easy buckets underneath.  I really believe that's the ticket and doing more of that will set up Roll, Lee and others for good looks from outside. What we cannot do is what we were doing early in the second half yesterday (and also against Notre Dame) when we kept dialing up the long bombs first. We have to keep showing the same patience we showed so brilliantly in first half against Arizona State.

Bruins have to shift their attention to Arizona Wildcats today. Those were the guys who probably handed Howland's most embarrassing loss in recent years last time we took on them in Tucson. That was the game in which the Bruins basically quit and stop trying in a humiliating loss in which the scoreboard (72-84) was not indicative of the lop-sided loss.

The Wildcats are coming in with a new coach in Sean Miller and a similar 6-7 record after suffering a humiliating home loss against BYU (69-99) and a close one against Southern Cal last night (50-56). While the Trojans defense bottled them up all afternoon (Wildcats made 15 of their 50 shot attempts), they kept battling and kept it close from the free throw line. They also played really hard as indicated in their rebounding edge (35-33) against the Trojan frontcourt. I think the matchups to watch is going between the two backcourts and the also the one between two freshmen: Derrick Williams and Reeves Nelson.

I am really hoping Malcolm Lee can stay in his defensive zone. That is going to be pivotal if he is assigned to guard Nic Wise. Similarly we will need Jerime to stay in a consistent rhythm in which he is not trying to do too much and stay within himself. Meanwhile, we will need Reeves and co. to do their part so that we don't allow those guys to gain any kind of edge around the boards. If we can take care of business and hold serve tomorrow morning at Pauley, all on a sudden the momentum will be even more real heading into our first Pac-10 road trip of the season.