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A Post-Finals Exam

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The circles in intercollegiate athletics frequently overlap, with one coach linked to another via direct line or through some Kevin Bacon-like degrees of separation. Some relationships develop depth while others barely extend beyond casual pregame handshakes and banter, but in most cases these guys either know of each other or can recount a personal account.

While at Cal, Owls coach Ben Braun participated in a clinic hosted by then-Nevada coach Trent Johnson. For Braun, the clearest memories of his stay in Reno are from conversations he shared with coaching giants Pete Newell and Tex Winter, but Johnson extended the invitation that Braun accepted. The men were competitors when Johnson worked as an assistant under Mike Montgomery at Stanford, and became Bay Area adversaries when Johnson left Nevada and succeeded Montgomery on The Farm. The men will meet again when the Owls face LSU in Baton Rouge on Saturday, and chances are good that Braun and Johnson - who served as a Rice assistant under Willis Wilson as did his assistant, former Rice standout Brent Scott - will have more than a few anecdotes to share before the opening tip.

Neither man will surprise the other with his coaching. Each is acutely aware of what the other aims to accomplish, a fact that helps explain why Braun believes that the Owls' mental preparation will have as much bearing on their success as anything relative to X's and O's.

"It's a mindset," Braun said. "Our players realize that it starts on the defensive end. If you want to play successfully on the road you'd better start defensively. You can't go on the road and say, 'Let's just hope we hit some shots or let's just have a great shooting game.' Everybody wants a great shooting game, but what can you control? You can't always control your shot going in, but you can control how hard you defend, how hard you rebound and your effort level. We're going to have to defend LSU. Our challenge is just have a good defensive game."

The Owls' struggles on the road have been documented, and getting a 'W' at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center is no small task. But the Owls realize that for this program to take the next step toward legitimacy, they must play with a greater sense of urgency away from Tudor Fieldhouse. Arizona and Harvard are solid teams to be sure, but the Owls won't gain national respect until they can perform above expectations in another program's gymnasium.

The aggressive defense, tenacity, hustle and confidence the Owls have played with at home must somehow translate when they don those snazzy blue uniforms. The Owls realize that.

"It's all preparation and mindset," Owls So. G Connor Frizzelle said. "When you go in there you can't be goofing around, you can't be thinking about anything (else). We you get to game time, especially on the road, you've got to be sharp (and) you've got to be mentally prepared."

Added Owls Sr. G/F Cliff Ghoram: "That's something we have to learn to take from being at home and bring it when we have our away games. LSU would be a great game to start for us."

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1 Comment

MK -- Any idea why Jackson's minutes were down so much in the Santa Clara game?

owl-1983: Well, Jackson didn't play particularly well against the Broncos (1-for-6 shooting, two turnovers, two assists) and Bryan Beasley gave the team a real spark during his first-half stint. Also, Connor Frizzelle had a season-high five assists, so the decision to pair him with Cliff Ghoram in the second half worked out well. - MK

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