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Morrison can play … and act

UCLA coach Ben Howland scary? GU freshman Josh Heytvelt thinks so.
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
UCLA coach Ben Howland scary? GU freshman Josh Heytvelt thinks so. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

OAKLAND, Calif. – Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison has encountered just about every kind of defense imaginable this year. Box-and-one. Triangle-and-two. He’s been face-guarded by opponents with no responsibility for any kind of help-side defense. And some teams “beat the crap out of me,” he said.

But UCLA coach Ben Howland – who did a little of that as a player himself at Weber State and whose teams are renowned for physical defense – isn’t very sympathetic.

“He gets away with a lot himself, too,” Howland said. “Sometimes he’ll grab onto a guy, then act like he’s being fouled. He’s just a smart player. That’s what smart players do.”

Smart players get to the free throw line – Morrison’s 307 free throw attempts is one short of national leader Caleb Green of Oral Roberts, and Howland is flabbergasted by the statistic.

“He’s been to the free throw line more than my entire front line. I’m talking about Ryan Hollins, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alfred Aboya, Mike Fey, Ryan Wright, Lorenzo Mata, Mike Roll and Janou Rubin. Eight scholarship players. He’s been to the line more than all eight of them.”

True enough – those eight combined for 305 foul shots this year.

“My top three players in terms of getting to the line – Richard, Jordan (Farmar) and Aaron (Affalo) – have taken 350 combined, ” Howland said. “He’s been there 307 times. I would say he gets treated very fairly in terms of the officiating based on what’s happened so far.”

No wax buildup

If the floor at the Oakland Arena gives off a bit of a glare on television, there will be good reason for it – it’s brand new.

Tournament manager Mark Papadopoulos said that the NCAA has made the Oakland Regional the “guinea pig” for a new policy to standardize the flooring at the four regional sites. The new floor at the Oakland Arena will be sold – at a cost of about $400 per eight foot-by-eight foot square – to another party, but next year the NCAA will buy four new floors for use at the regionals. Then they’ll be stored and shipped in successive years to other regional sites.

That won’t affect the 2007 games at the Spokane Arena, which are first and second-round play.

Win one, lose one

When Ben Howland accepted the UCLA job two years ago, he made no secret that Jordan Farmar was his top recruiting priority – and that was Gonzaga’s loss, since the Bulldogs had recruited the talented point guard heavily.

But Howland also made a late run at forward Josh Heytvelt of Clarkston, who found the regional lure of Gonzaga just as attractive as Farmar, an Angelino, did UCLA.

Or maybe it was something else.

“He scared me,” Heytvelt said of Howland. “He came down there with his slicked-back hair and trench coat. He was a little scary.”

Aren’t you that guy on TV?

As the Bulldogs get deeper into the tournament, the faces asking the questions at press conferences become more familiar – as when Morrison fielded a question from Los Angeles Times columnist and ESPN panelist Bill Plaschke.

Morrison rattled off a fairly stock answer to a question about whether the Zags had underachieved in recent tournaments, but didn’t leave it at that.

“I like the show, too,” he told Plaschke. ” ‘Around the Horn’ is pretty good.”

No 40 points for Morrison

UCLA’s Jordan Farmar was questioned about how he and his defensive-oriented teammates might respond should Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison, the nation’s top Division-I scorer and author of five 40 points-plus games this season, hang 40 on the Bruins in tonight’s Sweet 16 showdown.

“Teams, in general, haven’t been scoring 60 points (against us),” Farmar said. “For one man to go for 40 would be an extraordinary performance.

“You know, at this stage of the game, with so much on the line for us, I think that’s where (defense) comes into play – that we’re not going to let that happen.”