Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mission for UCLA – Stop Gonzaga’s Batista

By Bruin Basketball Report

Part of UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland's normal preparation for an upcoming game is to study opponent game films for endless hours to devise his game plan.

In studying Gonzaga footage, Howland will obviously note Adam Morrison’s constant kinetic motion on offense as he knocks down countless perimeter shots while other times taking the ball aggressively to the basket.

Yet, it’s not Morrison who should cause the most concern for Howland and the Bruins - it’s someone who shouldn’t be hard to miss at all on the game film considering he stands 6 feet 9 inches and weighs 265 pounds.

Gonzaga’s center J.P. Batista is the man who should catch Howland’s eye.

Morrison gets all the attention, especially from the media, for national player awards mentions, news headlines, and for his mop-haircut and ‘stache which is plastered across reams of magazine covers.

Nevertheless, ask any person associated with the Gonzaga basketball program, or an opponent who has played the Bulldogs this year, and they’ll tell you J.P. Batista is just as important to the team as anyone, including Morrison.

Memphis coach John Calipari said about Batista after their game in December, “He’s so big when he got down low we had no answer for him”

"You get him the ball down low,” Gonzaga teammate Derek Raivio said “and he's either going to get fouled or get a bucket."

Batista, a muscular wide-body with soft hands, can not be rooted out of the low post. Although he is neither quick nor agile, he has an excellent repertoire of back to the basket post moves making him nearly impossible to stop one-on-one.

He is averaging 19.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season. The only player in the Pac-10 close to having Batista’s gaudy numbers is California’s Leon Powe, whom many felt deserved to win Pac-10 Player of the Year, except, Powe only shot 50% from the floor – Batista has a 59% field goal percentage this season.

So far this season, Batista has produced seven double-double games in points scored and rebounds.

Batista, a native Brazilian, attended Barton County Junior College in central Kansas where he averaged 20 points and nine rebounds, and was rated as one of the top JC prospects.

He was pursued by many top programs in search of a big man with his size and skill, at the end, he chose Gonzaga as a red-shirt junior because he preferred the small town atmosphere the school offered.

"He works hard and is a great team guy.” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, “He is a big part of the heart and soul of this team and may be the best low post player in the nation. "

Now teammates for two year, Batista and Morrison have formed a potent inside-outside combination for opposing teams to defend.

With his size and bulk, Batista usually has no problem getting good position against defenders on the low blocks. UCLA will double-down on Batista whenever he receives the ball in the low post; however, the Bruins will need to react quickly as Batista usually makes his offensive move as soon as he receives the ball.

Bruin seven-footer Ryan Hollins will get the starting assignment against Batista, but he will need back-up help from his teammates on the floor and from the bench.

Despite UCLA having practically its full stable of centers available for the game, aside from Hollins, none of the other players would appear to match up well against Batista. Lorenzo Mata, Ryan Wright, and Alfred Aboya may not have the size or experience to guard Batista; however, senior center Michael Fey might be an option.

Fey, who has been little-used thus far in the tournament, may see significant minutes especially if Hollins gets into early foul trouble or if the other Bruin centers are unable to check Batista.

In basketball match-ups are everything, and at seven-feet and 270 lbs, Fey may play a key defensive role in the game.

The Bruins will have difficulty holding Adam Morrison’s point total down on Thursday; on the other hand, teams have shown Morrison can be checked by single coverage especially if defenders are quick and long armed, like Shawnee Williams of Memphis.

Batista is different, and defending him will take a team effort.

Against Indiana, Morrison was held to 14 points on 5 of 17 shooting, but it was Batista, who scored 20 points on 10 of 18 shooting and grabbed 9 rebounds, that paced Gonzaga to victory.

Adam Morrison is the star of Gonzaga, but it’s J.P. Batista whom the Bruins must stop.

(BruinBasketballReport.com)

3 Comments:

At Mar 21, 2006, 11:55:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just my opinion, but ever since the Michigan game I feel as if the coaching staff gave up on Fey. It would be unfair at this point in the season to expect him to be able to flip a switch and play with tournament level intensity. I'll take my chances with Aboya...

 
At Mar 21, 2006, 1:10:00 PM, Blogger Bruin Basketball Report said...

Agree with your opinion, a bit hesitant whether Mata or Aboya will be able to stop Batista. Aboya may have the better chance since he's more active and will be able to 3/4 Batista for denial of pass entry.

Fey is a last option if Hollins, Mata, and Aboya don't get the job done - but he is a viable one, especially against a player like Batista who matches Fey in foot-speed.

 
At Mar 21, 2006, 4:45:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I'm a believer in Hollins at this point. Especially with his wingspan, athletic prowess, and height advantages over Batista he's going to have all kinds of position on Batista. Not to mention a defensive scheme that will lend itself well to controlling JP.


Batista in the tournament:
Xavier: (5-7)18 points, 8 rebs (1 off)
Indiana: (10-18) 20 points, 9 rebs (3 off)

Indiana and Xavier didn't have true centers getting significant minutes, and a bunch of players with no height/size advantages to speak of. Hollins has size and quicks that Batista doesn't have, which will help us contain him when the defense doubles him. Keeping Hollins out of foul trouble is going to present the biggest challenge.

Fey will get some minutes against him early in the game, but if he doesn't immediately produce he should be pulled for Mata/Aboya.

Moute -vs- Morrison is going to be an interesting matchup...

UCLA 72 - Gonzaga 66

 

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