Bruins zone in on matchup – LA Times

By David Wharton , Los Angeles Times

December 30, 2009


Zone defense has not been a favorite subject around UCLA in recent years.

The Bruins hardly ever play the zone. Don’t particularly like to play against it.

Which makes their Pacific 10 Conference opener against Arizona State on Thursday all the more worrisome — the Sun Devils feature a tough matchup zone.

“They do a good job of creating mini-havoc out there,” UCLA guard Michael Roll said. “They’re all over the place.”

As forward Nikola Dragovic put it: “Like they have seven players on the court.”

The defense in question uses principles of man-to-man within a zone framework. It is a big reason Arizona State swept the Bruins last season.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland wants to put a stop to that trend.

“We’ve got to do a good job of being patient and waiting for it to come to us,” Howland said.

UCLA has practiced finding ways to get the ball inside with passes and dribble penetration. From there, the Bruins can score or kick the ball back out to open shooters.

Howland’s biggest fear is that his team will settle for quick perimeter shots.

“That’s what their zone does,” he said of Arizona State. “That zone is effective in that it tries to get you to take mostly outside shots.”

Encouraging prognosis

UCLA is hoping forward James Keefe can return from a dislocated shoulder to play even a few minutes Thursday.

Keefe was scheduled for increasing full-contact practices through today.

“I’m feeling very confident,” he said.

Howland did not make any predictions about the senior’s return, preferring to wait for another examination by doctors. His thin frontcourt could use another body, even in a limited role.

“If James can play, that would help us in terms of getting a little more rest for our guys inside,” he said.

Young guns

A few upperclassmen have been talking to freshmen teammates about turning up the intensity for conference play.

“They just said it’s going to be more of a personal thing because it’s your league,” freshman center Reeves Nelson said. “They want me to be mentally prepared for that.”

Nelson and classmate Tyler Honeycutt figure to play significant minutes Thursday. Brendan Lane might also see a lot of minutes.

Keefe suspects they will have to learn on the job.

“They don’t know,” he said. “I mean, you don’t know until you really experience it.”