Well, we got another big game coming up. UCLA is right back in the swing of things. After a few down years, they are riding high and poised to potentially take the Pac10 again. Ben Howland has his boys playing strong.
They come into Berkeley for a rare Sunday night tilt. I'll be there! Excited. Not as excited as when I received an email from Athletics AFTER I bought my tickets giving me a $10 off coupon for tickets, though. That was really exciting.
Fortunately for us, we have one of the best sources on Bruin sports in the SBN galaxy, BruinsNation. We spoke with Ryan Rosenblatt to get his views on UCLA basketball. After the jump find out his answers to our questions. GO BEARS!
1. What are the differences between your team now and when we lost to you guys in Pauley?
The biggest difference is on the defensive end. When you guys visited us at Pauley we were very inconsistent mostly because the defensive intensity and focus was in and out. In the last few weeks the Bruins have become a more consistent defensive team and with that, the wins have followed because they can overcome stretches where shots aren't falling. Four times in the last three weeks UCLA has held opponents to under 40% shooting and unsurprisingly, the wins have followed. They aren't a great defensive team by any means, but they're leaps and bounds better than last time they played Cal.
Can you ask Jorge Gutierrez to stop being so annoying? Seriously though, at times Nelson can be as annoying to us as he is to opponents. He plays with a ton of emotion and those emotions leads to his focus and energy going both up and down so it can annoy us as well. I think any player as emotional as him is going to be annoying to opponents, but just know it hits as some times too.
Considering our disdain for the Pac-10 refs and the recent comments by Mike Montgomery, I say it happens on a ridiculous call by a ref.
3. How will your team crush our spirits in the final seconds this time?
I think a lot of it is just confidence. He's had gigantic games before (last year against Notre Dame comes to mind), but his confidence in his shot would waver. He's much more confident in his jump shot and knocking those down makes him more confident to go to the rim. In addition, not playing point guard this season and getting better point guard play in the last few weeks has allowed him to not look to help handle the ball and instead turn his attention to scoring.
4. I had always viewed Malcolm Lee as a good defense, limited offense type of player, but his recent numbers seem to be proving me wrong. What has changed about his game recently?
Some of it is inexperience and just a lack of focus, but more than anything it's average point guards in an offense that puts a lot of emphasis on the point guards. Ben Howland's offense has always put a huge emphasis on the point guard and the point guard spends a lot of time on the ball. Well, UCLA has one point guard who is in his first season at the D-1 level (Lazeric Jones) and another whose improvement to solid is considered a massive improvement (Jerime Anderson). So, the point guards are average in an offense that asks them to be very good and turnovers follow. Also, Tyler Honeycutt spends a ton of time on the ball as the Bruins' most talented player and while he makes several incredible passes a game, he throws a lot away because he loses focus and tries to do way too much so when you add it up at the end, there are a lot of turnovers.
5. UCLA's weakness appears to be turnovers. Why have the Bruins had so much difficulty controlling the ball, and what types of defenses have given them the most problems?