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UCLA BASKETBALL FYI

A speed bump for UCLA? Not likely

The Bruins, looking for some momentum heading into Pac-10 Conference play later this week, meet Delaware State today -- a deliberate, disciplined team that moves at a snail's pace.

December 27, 2009|By David Wharton
  • UCLAÂ’s Jerime Anderson moves to the basket against Mississippi StateÂ’s Jarvis Varnando. The Bruins play the slow and deliberate Delaware State Hornets today.
UCLAÂ’s Jerime Anderson moves to the basket against Mississippi… (Christine Cotter / Los Angeles…)

Momentum has been tough to come by -- or too often moving in the wrong direction -- for a struggling UCLA team this season.

So when the Bruins face Delaware State at Pauley Pavilion this afternoon, they will be eager to grab a second consecutive victory.

But they can't be too eager, not against an opponent that tends to move at a snail's pace.

Delaware State (4-5) averages only 49 shots a game by holding the ball for 15 or 20 seconds, trying to score near the end of each possession. Impatient defenses can get burned with back-cuts and back-screens.

"It's going to be a game where the tempo is slow," Coach Ben Howland said.

Last week, the Hornets held No. 17 Ohio State to a season low in scoring, losing 60-44.

"They may be the most disciplined team I've ever seen in my life," Ohio State Coach Thad Matta said. "I would have had a hard time in that one as a player. Our guys had to focus for the full 40 minutes."

Delaware State guard Marcus Neal and forward Frisco Sandidge are the most frequent options for an offense that doesn't exactly light up the scoreboard.

At the other end of the floor, Howland expects to face the press and trap and zone amid a variety of strategies.

"They're constantly mixing it up, so they're going to be constantly changing their looks," he said. "There are going to be times when it looks like they are in a zone, but they'll really be in man-to-man."

The zone could be particularly challenging for a UCLA program that has never seemed to get the hang of attacking that sort of defense.

Still, Delaware State has lost four straight games after a fast start and Howland sees a chance for his team to pick up speed heading toward the start of the Pacific 10 Conference schedule against Arizona State later this week.

"We just want to continue to tighten up everything and make sure we're executing," Howland said. "Hopefully, we're going to continue to build and gain confidence by playing well."

Recovery process

Forward James Keefe has been getting healthier, able to participate in non-contact work during recent practices.

The senior is working his way back from a dislocated left shoulder, the same shoulder that required surgery two years ago.

His return is important to a UCLA team suddenly thin in the frontcourt.

"He's been doing pretty well . . . so we hope he'll be able to practice some Tuesday and Wednesday," Howland said. "He potentially might be able to play some minutes for us next Thursday at the earliest."

Freshman Brendan Lane suffered from a sore throat this week, but guard Michael Roll, who was battling flu-like symptoms, is back at full strength.

Over and over

Point guard Jerime Anderson used his two-day vacation to work on putting the ball in the basket.

Howland said the sophomore spent at least part of Christmas Eve in the gym at his alma mater, Anaheim Canyon High, shooting jump shots. The extra practice apparently has paid off.

"Last night, he had a very good shooting practice," the coach said.

The Bruins reconvened for a practice at 8 o'clock on Christmas night and put in time with scouting and film work on Saturday.

david.wharton@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesWharton

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