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Ben Ball Gameday Roundup: "Nothing To Lose" For U$C*'s Sacrificial Lambs

<em>Will Roll, Lee and rest of their team-mates match the Trojans' defensive intensity today at Pauley? Photo Credit: E. Corpuz</em>
Will Roll, Lee and rest of their team-mates match the Trojans' defensive intensity today at Pauley? Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

As mentioned yesterday afternoon we can expect Ben Howland's team to take on an extremely fired up Trojan basketball team, that will be coming out at Pauley as if it was a tourney elimination game (since they will probably not get sniff of it for few years). Coach Howland understands the kind of intensity the TrOJans will be showing today at Pauley:

Though the Trojans lost the two games that followed the implementation of those sanctions, UCLA coach Ben Howland doesn't think the setbacks are connected to the penalties. Howland expects the Bruins to face a USC team that will carry a nothing-to-lose attitude for the remainder of the season.

"I'm sure it was very much a disappointment for the players and the coaches to know they're no longer going to be playing past the regular season of the Pac-10," Howland said earlier this week. "Those kids want to get the most out of their season so they're ... believe me, we'll get their best game of the year (Saturday). I know that." [...]

"The bottom line is, for USC, they've got 14 games left in the season, and for (Dwight) Lewis and for (Marcus) Johnson and for (Mike) Gerrity, that's 14 games in your college career," Howland said. "They're going to want to get the most out of it."

The question for the Bruins is not only whether they will match and go beyond the Trojan intensity, they will also have to answer the doubts about whether they can play with poise and composure. Predictably they didn't do it in Stanford in their humiliating loss at Maples:

"It was very frustrating because we knew they were going to be a tough team but at halftime, with all of the mistakes that we made, we were still in the game," said freshman starter Tyler Honeycutt. "If we had corrected them, we would have easily won that game."

Well woulda-coulda-shoulda excuses will not work for the Bruins today. They have had a week off to work on their shortcomings and develop as a basketball team. They will need to come out and put together a performance that is not only boosted by emotion, but also features a total "team-effort" from its upperclassmen and the athletic youngsters. More after the jump.

Specifically the Bruins will need leadership from someone like Michael Roll, who was particularly careless with the ball against Stanford last week. In his game report today, Jon Gold has a gushing profile on Roll:

"For all the outsiders, UCLA basketball is a great thing," Roll said. "People look at it as more than just a college basketball team. It's special. Being a part of it my first couple years was great. But now I'm more of a leader on the team, and I want as much as I can. Not just for my sake, but for UCLA basketball.

"This is the best fraternity in the country. It's special to all of us."

As much as I appreciated Roll's game winner against Cal, his TOs against Stanford (many of them just lazy and careless one) were equally if not more disappointing. Roll is too smart of a player to make those unenforced errors and if he really wants to emerge as a "leader" in this basketball team, he will have to do it by example.

Hopefully Roll can play that part and it will rub off on team-mates like Tyler Honeycutt, who is slowly coming along this season:

Honeycutt, who has started the last two games, is still catching up. His development was slowed last summer by a spinal stress fracture. He recovered, then suffered a stress reaction in his right tibia and missed six games.

"There was a lot of stuff that I could have been doing during the off-season, shooting, dribbling, playing like a lot of guys played during the summer," the 6-foot-7 Honeycutt said. "I missed a lot. It started to come around not too long ago. You can have practice and scrimmages, but that's not the same as a game."

Honeycutt, who is averaging 4.5 points and 5.8 rebounds, started the last two games. He had 10 rebounds in an overtime victory over California and eight against Stanford.

That's not to say the learning curve is nearly finished.

"You'd be surprised with the fundamentals that are not habits coming out of high school," Howland said. "Blocking out is one of them. Tyler is a very, very good rebounder. He goes and gets it with two hands. He's quick to the ball. There are also times where he's getting blocked out. He can be an even better rebounder."

Honeycutt will have to play a big role this afternoon going up against a tough player like Marcus Johnson. Not only he will need to continue with his energetic presence around the boards, he will also need to come through with some scoring for the team. Perhaps one of the few brightspots in that Stanford loss was watching Honeycutt shooting that 3 pointer. If he can somehow get his scoring touch back, it will be a huge boost for the team.

The tipoff is scheduled for 4:37 pm PST. We will have the game thread up about half an hour before the game. See you then.