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UCLA BASKETBALL FYI

James Harden is still Bruins main focus

Despite a poor game against USC, the Arizona State star figures to bounce back. At least that's what Howland's expecting.

January 17, 2009|David Wharton

Coach Ben Howland studied tape of USC's upset victory over Arizona State, paying attention to the way the Trojans limited Sun Devils star James Harden to four points.

The coach had this warning: Don't expect more of the same when No. 16 Arizona State plays No. 9 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion today.

"He's not going to have another game like that," Howland said.

"This guy's a great player. This guy is a lottery pick in the NBA."

Even with the subpar night against USC, Harden remains the Pacific 10 Conference scoring leader at 21.9 points a game.

USC guarded him with Daniel Hackett who, according to Howland, did a good job of face-guarding and denying him the ball. Harden took only eight shots.

Howland said he had decided on a strategy for defending the Sun Devils but did not give too many details.

Who will get the Harden assignment?

The coach mentioned Josh Shipp and Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee and Michael Roll.

"It will be a multitude of guys," he said.

In the zone

Arizona State figures to play 40 minutes of zone defense, which doesn't exactly bother the Bruins.

One of UCLA's two early season losses came against Michigan with its 1-3-1 defense, but the coaches and players say they have learned.

"We've improved in that area as the season has progressed," Howland said. "I think the guys are very comfortable."

UCLA shot almost 60% against Arizona's zone defense Thursday night.

"I was hoping at the beginning of the year we'd be shooting at a high percentage," center Alfred Aboya said. "Whenever somebody's open, he's going to knock it down."

Howland says he believes that most teams need time to acclimate to moving the ball and finding open spots against the zone because players don't practice against that type of defense during the off-season.

"No one's going down to the gym in the summer and saying, 'Let's play some zone,' " he said.

On the mend

With Lee back in the rotation, the Bruins are missing only two injured players -- Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, out for the season because of a torn ligament in his wrist, and freshman big man J'mison Morgan, who has a groin injury.

Morgan had a couple of impressive practices this week, Howland said, and did not suffer as big a loss in conditioning as expected.

--

david.wharton@latimes.com

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