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Ben Ball Gameday Roundup: Another Big Game Against Arizona

<em>Bruins will need a focused effort including poised leadership from their seniors. Photo Credit: E. Corpuz</em>
Bruins will need a focused effort including poised leadership from their seniors. Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

Well we get started early this Saturday morning. Bruins face off against Arizona Wildcats in a huge game this morning at 10 am (do both schools need the TV money and exposure that badly?). Both programs are coming in with a record of 6-7. However, it's the Bruins who come into this game with a little bit of momentum winning 3 out of our last 4, while the Wildcats come into  Pauley on 2 game losing streak which includes a blowout loss against BYU on their home court. This game traditionally has always been one of the biggest games in the Western US. It might not be the marquee matchup recordwise this season, however this game is as big as it gets for both program because it can mark as potential turning points heading into rest of the Pac-10 season.

For Bruins, if we can manage to hold serve on home court, it will give our guys a huge sense of confidence heading into the Pac-10 season. A loss at Pauley will be tough to stomach after the recent encouraging wins. While on the Wildcats end they need a win - DESPERATELY - so that their season doesn't spin out of control in Sean Miller's first year in Tuscon. We have heard a lot about Bruins riding the proverbial roller coaster with a young nucleus this season. Same goes for the Wildcats who have been breaking in a lot of young players. From the LA Times:

"Obviously they're playing a lot of young guys and they're going to get better," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.

Arizona's starting lineup includes freshmen Solomon Hill and Derrick Williams, who averages 15 points and 6.5 rebounds. But the Wildcats also have a senior, Nic Wise, at the essential position of point guard.

"He really makes that thing go," Howland said. "He really does a good job of pushing the ball."

Defensively, Arizona has employed a variety of zones and traps this season, but UCLA expects to face man-to-man defense most of the time.

I think the key for this afternoon's game will be how the Bruins end up dealing with Nic Wise and Derrick Williams. More on that and other game notes after the jump.

Rob Carpentier from Bruin Report Online has a great preview of the game, in which he zeroes in on matchups against Wise and Williams. I have to agree with Rob on the game hinging on how Jerime will handle Wise's on ball pressure (excerpting here since it's not behind subscription firewall):

Arizona, however, will present a new challenge for Coach Ben Howland’s Bruins, particularly for Anderson. First-year coach Sean Miller is a big believer in ball pressure, man-to-man defense and that all starts with his senior point guard Nic Wise (5’10" 180 lbs.). Wise is one of only two Wildcats who could honestly play for every other team in the Pac-10. The quality that makes Wise so dangerous in this game is not his ability to get to the rim, nor his ability to hit some big outside shots, both of which he is fully capable of doing, but rather his potential to shut down Anderson because of his quickness and ball pressure. Wise has been solid to very good this year on defense and he could really disrupt the Bruins at the point of attack. Anderson will more than likely not be matched up on Wise on the defensive end because of the emergence of Malcolm Lee as a shut-down defender. It was truly remarkable to see Lee so neutralize ASU’s senior point guard Derek Glasser that ASU coach Herb Sendek essentially benched Glasser for a large portion of the second half. ASU’s comeback from a 16-point deficit happened without Glasser on the floor and that was due to Lee’s essentially suffocating defense. Lee’s length and size bothered Glasser and prevented him from getting to the rim (when the Bruins were in a man defense), and Glasser was only able to get to the basket late, with one exception, because Lee switched off of him. Lee will certainly cause Wise some issues but that may not mean much if Wise can get into Anderson’s head.

I think how Anderson handles Wise's ball pressure will potentially provide us telling signs how Bruins will fair rest of this Pac-10 season because it might give us a peak into upcoming matchups against talented guards from California and Washington. Again, I really believe the key will be for Anderson to stay composed and play within his abilities. I sound like a broken record on this point but I will keep making it. Bruins IMHO will be OK if Anderson just focuses on playing solid basketball as a poitguard. Bruins need him to be good not spectacular to be a very good basketball team. If Jerime can stay alert, make good decisions and focus on setting up his team-mates with best possible shots, while also looking for his opportunities to get to the basket, I think we are going to be all right.

Speaking of getting to the rim, it's going to be a huge battle between Williams and Nelson. From Carpentier again:

The other All Pac-10 level player for the Wildcats is freshman forward Derrick Williams (6’8" 235 lbs.). Williams is a low-post force for the Wildcats and the match-up he’ll have against Reeves Nelson will be one to watch. Williams is second on the team in scoring at 15 PPG and in rebounding at 6.5 RPG. He was the only Wildcat to step up in the loss to USC, getting to the free-throw line 12 times, hitting 11 of those attempts. He has been to the charity stripe a whopping 106 times on the season, although even with last night’s effort he’s only connecting on 66% of his free throws. Williams is a match-up nightmare because of his bull-in-a-china-shop style. However, he has had some trouble going up against similar physical players and he’s going to see one in Nelson. UCLA will also have the added advantage of throwing a lot of bodies at Williams, including James Keefe, who looked good in limited action against ASU, and J’mison Morgan. Miller doesn’t have that kind of depth with his Wildcats. If Wise or Williams get into any kind of foul trouble then the Wildcats will find themselves in real difficulty.

Nelson is going to need a lot help from Keefe, Dragovic, Lane and co. to make sure Williams and other Zona forward don't have their way in the paint. It also means if Nelson is getting help through double teaming of Williams, our guys will have to be disciplined in rotating back to their man.

Similarly Lee and the Bruins guards will have to keep Wise from getting easy penetration and attacking the basket. Coach Howland is not being coy about playing zone in this game:

"We may use it again," Howland said during a conference call Friday. "We may use it (today). But I honestly had no plans to use the zone going into the game. I did see the first 15 minutes of our game, and the zone definitely helped us and against certain teams we'll use it again."

That was from the Daily News. I agree with poncho that Arizona might be the right team for which Howland to throw out more zone. They are not a great shooting team. Since they can do most of their damage through their athleticism around the paint, I think we our zone defense through the athleticism of kids like Lee, Honeycutt and Anderson could be a very effective weapon against them. Moreover, perhaps this is a game we might also see a little bit of Mike Moser because I think his athleticism also could be the right fit for this kind of defense.

BTW speaking of Honeycutt we now know why he didn't get enough mins against Arizona State:

Fans clamoring for more of Tyler Honeycutt on Thursday night were missing a key bit of information: Howland told the media Friday that Honeycutt was sick and was limited in his minutes. He played just 11 minutes against Arizona State after 27 minutes against Delaware State on Dec. 27.

Honeycutt (Sylmar High) made his presence known in the zone defense, though, and had a beautiful assist to a cutting Reeves Nelson for an easy basket during the Bruins' run.

"He had a little bit of a flu yesterday, and he still has a little bit of that today," Howland said. "He missed the entire summer and a few weeks of practice, (but) he's doing a good job."

Hopefully he is feeling lot better this am. We are going to need him.

The game tips off around 10:00 am PST (again, seriously?). Our game thread is going to go up around 9:30 am. We will see you in the thread. Drink up some coffee.