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Hoops Roundup: Preparing For The Mac

<em>Bruins getting ready for their last game at the Mac. Photo Credit: <a href="" target="new">ruralocity (flickr)</a></em>
Bruins getting ready for their last game at the Mac. Photo Credit: ruralocity (flickr)

Yesterday I wrote about the apprehension of playing against a desperate Oregon team in the always crazy (at least for the Bruins) McArthur Court. Even though the Ducks have been struggling and are in the middle of a 5 game losing streak, it is not going to be easy for the Bruins. At least on paper it sounds like our guys get how tough it is going to be on Thursday night. From the OC Register:

"I'm sure they'll come out as hard as they can because it's not good to lose five games," freshman forward Reeves Nelson said. "I'm sure they don't want to make it six. I'm sure it'll be a battle, pretty much like every other game in the Pac-10 this year." [...]

"It's one of the most exciting places to play, I think," senior forward James Keefe said. "I remember my freshman year, last-minute free throws, the backboard was actually shaking because of the crowd noise. It's an experience. We're going to have to go in there and take a game from them. They're not going to give it up easily."

Adding to the Ducks' hunger is their 0-3 Pac-10 record on their home court this season.

"We're going to definitely get their best shot," Keefe said. "At home, five in a row, they're not happy. They're not happy with their season. They need a win, just like we needed a win in the past. We're going to get their best shot for sure."

Nelson hasn't played in McArthur Court but hopes that the Bruins' Jan. 6 game at Cal was enough to prepare him for what he'll be facing Thursday night.

"We don't expect to go up there for any cupcake win," Nelson said. "We're going to go up there and play as hard as we can."

Well FT shooting is going to be one of the keys for Bruins on Thursday night (along with playing 40 minutes of defense and being patient on offense). It sounds like Howland is continuing to work the team hard to get in some kind of groove from the charity line.

"Just working at it, working at it, working at it," Howland said. "We have been putting them in different situations in practice, having them do it after they were tired."

"Bigs" (power forwards/centers) had to make 70 of 100 and "smalls" (perimeter players) 80 of 100 during Monday's practice. Coming up short meant starting again.

The problem is that simulating a game situation is difficult.

"You can stand there and just shoot them, and make a lot, but it's different in a game when you have the crowd, you have to score and there is little time left," Honeycutt said. "It's a whole lot different when you're shooting two down by one at the end of a game. You have to try to mentally prepare for that."

Apparently Honeycutt had made 79 of 99 in his first time out and missed the 100th shot so he had to go all over again. Honeycutt is shooting only 55% from the line which doesn't make any sense at all considering the touch we have seen from him from the 3 point line. Nelson had his way of looking at the situation:

"I shot free throws better in high school," said Nelson, a freshman. "To be honest, the crowd is not much of a factor. It's all in my brain, like I'm fatigued in my mind."

Hope the big man finds a way to relax just a little on Thursday night. More after the jump.

Preparing for the Ducks entails getting ready to face Tajuan Porter. Howland talked about the problem Porter can create for the zone defense:

Howland's biggest concern about facing Oregon on Thursday is the Ducks' 5-foot-6 guard Tajuan Porter, who is averaging 12.5 points per game. The Bruins are now a committed zone team and Porter is a zone-buster. "He's a little guy who is a nightmare for a zone, especially at home," Howland said. "His range is 30 feet."

I guess the solution will be to make sure the guards up front are not passive in our zone defense as they will need to find a way to disrupt Porter from getting in any kind of rhythm. Meanwhile, Honeycutt and Keefe/Nelson (assuming Keefe will get the start again since it has worked out well in last two games) will need to make sure they are constantly communicating with their team-mates up front so that they don't allow any kind of easy penetration through the lane.

I have given up from expecting anything from Ragovic. Yes, he had a decent game against the Cougars and I have no idea if he will be able to replicate that kind of self-control on the offensive front and some effort on the defensive side till sometime late next month. Just don't have any confidence in him.

As mentioned above Thursday night will be the Bruins last game at the Mac. I am sure the Duckies will try to make a big deal out of it.  Apparently Oregon has been designating special team captains for each game this year. For our game on Thursday night Greg Ballard is the Ducks captain, while Bill Walton will represent the blue and gold. I am all for it except per the LAT, Walton's last game was a 51-56 loss to the Ducks. So why did UCLA agree to it? Doesn't anyone care about the Mojo thing in Morgan Center?

Anyway, it's going to be a battle. How the Bruins react to the road pressure after experiencing a little success last week is going to tell us a little something about the heart of this current team. I am still skeptical.