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Hoops Roundup: Honeycutt's Leadership, Defensive Flexibility & Mindset For Seattle

Let's start this Friday (and the weekend) with some good news. I was dreading the possibility of having to deal with Steve Lavin as the in game commentator for tomorrow night's game against Washington (6:00 pm PST) on tWWL. Thankfully I am hearing we will not have to deal with Lavin tomorrow night (at least during the game) and instead will get Jay Bilas doing color commentary for tWWL. This doesn't of course mean that the Bruins chances of pulling off an upset improves tomorrow night, but hey this might make the night a little less unpleasant.  

Considering Ben Howland could not win in Seattle even with classic Ben Ball warriors, it will be too much to expect this group of Bruins to pull of the upset. Then again it only means Bruins can play with the mindset of nothing to lose in Seattle. Bruins can certainly help themselves tomorrow night if they can replicate the focus and effort from yesterday's complete performance against Washington State. As we have been saying all along this season the key for this year's team on offense is patience. Interestingly it was a freshman who set the tone of being unselfish and patient (emphasis added):

With 15:12 left in the second half and the Bruins sporting a 17-point lead, Honeycutt found himself on an island on the top left of the arc but moved the ball to senior forward Nikola Dragovic for a 3-pointer and 20-point cushion.

"I was wide open, but coach always preaches extra pass and I like to pass," Honeycutt said. "Everybody's saying I have this good first half, but there wasn't any need for more shots. Klay Thompson was over-guarding me, and I was trying to get my teammates open. There's no need for that. I'm not trying to go up there and jack up shots.

"I can hear (head coach Ben Howland's) voice in my head; 'Hey, patience ... patience.' "

Honeycutt is starting to sound like the ultimate Ben Ball warrior (who I hear had a pretty good game last night against King James) who is buying into Howland's principles and also showing dedication and work ethic it requires to develop into a great ball player:

Honeycutt, meanwhile, has taken "gym rat" to new levels.

"I had to get on him because he sneaks into Pauley Pavilion at 11 p.m., after intramurals, and he'll shoot until 1 a.m.," Howland said. "He was just doing that Tuesday. I love the willingness to work, but . . . "

The time seems well spent. Honeycutt was five of five from the field, finishing with 14 points.

Hard work and dedication usually leads to improve play on the court. It sounds simple but often is difficult to grasp for lot of kids who often expect success to be handed on a silver platter. I think it is way to early but I really like what I hear and see from Honeycutt. He seems like one of those kids who is relentless and who just keeps chipping away.

If you notice even when we are going through adversity, Tyler never really hangs his head or complain to the SPTRs. He just keeps balling. I think if he stays with it, he will most likely emerge as the next natural leader of this program, while his team-mates Reeves Nelson will provide the emotional energy on the court.

While Honeycutt an his team-mates were showing patience on offense, Howland made some interesting adjustments on the other side. I don't think any of us took note of how he switched from zone to man-to-man back to zone last night in first half to stop an initial Cougars surge. From the OC Register:

The Bruins used their 2-3 zone for most of the game but switched to a man-to-man defense for a couple of possessions in the first half. The switch seemed to work.

Washington State (15-11, 5-9) hit on four of its first five field-goal attempts in the first half but the Cougars' shooting declined as the game went on.

"It was real important because they were hot," Lee said. "Every time they came down, they were scoring on their outside shots.

"We tried to throw a little man-to-man out there just to throw a little wrench in their system, just to throw them off. We ended up getting a stop and went right back to the 2-3. I think that (2-3 zone) has really evolved since the last time we played them."

Well the zone certainly looked improved with Lane and Bobo downlow. I really hope Coach Howland takes a close look at the improvement his team made in playing zone and keep it as an option in his defensive arsenal heading into next season.

I think the ability to play both zone and man-to-man will make UCLA more dynamic and potent defensively with more young talent coming into Westwood. Players like Lane and Bobo certainly look more comfortable in this scheme. Not to mention their height and wingspan make them more physically suited to play zone. Same goes for Mike Moser who didn't get any minutes off the bench last night. 

So the Bruins are off to Seattle where they will take on a Washington team which will be angry after suffering a letdown loss against Southern Cal. Again keep in mind that the Bruins will be playing 5 on 8 tomorrow night as the SPTRs as usual will not bother to call anything on the Huskies allowing them to play like a pack of rabid dogs. The crowd is going to be in a frenzy and the Bruins are not going to get any kind of breaks.

Our guys should not feel any kind of pressure at this point of the season. They need to focus on playing their best basketball and play defense with effort and focus for 40 minutes. I also hope Howland keeps trusting his freshmen (and underclassmen) by giving them minutes even when things get a little tough. The way the youngsters and the team responded last night was really fun to watch. If they can build on that on Saturday night and give everything they have, the game could be fun to watch even if it is being broadcast on tWWL.