Just a quick note about tomorrow’s game before I get into the preview. If you are attending the game, the athletic department is planning a 70’s night theme. So bring your best 70’s gear and rock out. It was originally planned as a Lorenzo Romar throwback night, okay-ed by the coach himself, but then someone (who’s name I was not informed of) got their panties in a bunch about some dumb issue, which resulting in changing the theme to 70’s night to preserve the core of their game day plans. On to the preview!
by: John Chase
After looking like the powerhouse of the Pac-12, UCLA suffered some humiliating losses in the early non-con and have had to drag their way out of the basement, back into some semblance of a competitive team. The Bruins have stumbled to a 12-9 (5-4 in conference) record, leaving them tied for 5th place alongside Stanford and Arizona. Their record includes two very ugly home losses to Loyola Marymount 69-58 and a humongous 20 point loss 86-66 to Middle Tennessee.
ESPN penned a nice article a while back about the Wear twins and how they are holding UCLA back. The article argues that the Wear twins are the same player, so playing both on the court at the same time is wasteful and severely reduces game planning ability.
UCLA has yet to tally a quality win, much like the rest of the Pac-12, the big difference has been bad losses to non-tournament teams. Their team has played better as of late, especially with Reeves Nelson no longer part of the team. The Bruins come into this game with two straight wins over newcomers Colorado and Utah after getting swept on the road by the Oregon schools. This has been the Bruins’ story throughout conference play, solid games at home, weak performances on the road. This should be huge and with the Bruins historically playing bad basketball at Hec-Ed, the Dawgs should definitely be considered the favorites coming into the match.
The Bruins are a forward heavy team, lacking in solid guard play, which has certainly been the core of their problems. Lazeric Jones has had to really step up his play for UCLA to find any type of success and has been doing a very reasonable job of playing above his past levels. Jones is currently first on the team in both scoring and assists with 13.4 and 4.6 per game respectively. He is also first in turnovers per game with 2.5, something the Dawgs should be looking to heavily exploit. Personally, I would like to see Tony Wroten guard Jones as Wroten is a much better defender than Gaddy (2 steals per game versus .7 indicates more stringent defense, though Wroten has been known to miss assignments on occasion). Jones is just one of several respectable shooters on the team, hitting 37% of his shots behind the arc and 44% from the field. Jones is a respectable free throw shooter with a 75% average on the season. Keeping Jones in check will be critical for the Husky defense as the UCLA offense runs primarily through Jones.
The Wear twins each average at least 10 points per game (Travis is averaging 12 per game) and 5 rebounds (David is picking up 6 per game). Both are solid post players with a great inside shot and show decent mobility on the wings, though David is the better shooter of the pair with 9 makes on 15 attempts to Travis’ 3 makes on 6 attempts. Travis is the better foul shooter. At 6-10 225lb, the twins are tall enough to do shoot over their defenders, but thin enough to move past them as well. Aziz N’Diaye should have the muscle to take either of them to the rack without too much difficulty and should be able to keep the twins out of the paint as well. Austin Serferian-Jenkins may be undersized compared to the twins, but is much stronger and likely much faster than either, which will be important if they begin to rove around the perimeter.
Josh Smith. The kid could be an athlete, a dominate one at that, but his weight issues continue to hold him back. Smith averages only 17 minutes per game, but is solidly over 300lbs. Smith often uses his girth to push others out of his way, but as I said with the Wear twins, our post players have distinct strength advantages. Smith scores an average of 9.7 points and 5 boards per game. Smith is not a great shooter outside the paint and is almost as bad of a free throw shooter as N’Diaye, hitting only 53 of 93 attempts from the foul line. Smith also averages 2 turnovers per game. If the Dawgs can play tight defense, they can cause real havoc due to the poor ball handling UCLA often displays.
Tyler Lamb and Jermine Anderson may be the most dynamic and potentially explosive players for the Bruins. They each average around 9 points, 3 rebounds, as well as 3-4 assists per game. Both commit nearly 2 turnovers per game. Their shooting percentages are nearly identical and have made 25 and 23 3-pointers respectively. Lamb scored a season high 26 against California, while Anderson had 20 against Chaminade, a DII school, in the Maui Invitational.
Predicted Starting Line-Ups:
Lazeric Jones 6-0 187lb
Jermaine Anderson 6-2 183lb
Tyler Lamb 6-5 200lb
Travis Wear 6-10 220lb
David Wear 6-10 225lb
Abdul Gaddy 6-3 185lb
Tony Wroten 6-5 205lb
Terrence Ross 6-6 195lb
Desmond Simmons 6-7 225lb
Aziz N’Diaye 7-0 260lb
Keys to the Game:
- Rebounding – Offensive boards were the number 1 reason the Huskies won their game against the Wildcats last Saturday. Rebounds will continue to be the biggest key to success. The Husky offense has been slumping lately from deep, due mainly to the absence of C.J. Wilcox from the line-up. Speaking of Wilcox, he will not practice the remainder of the season and will be day-to-day for games, much like B-Roy his junior season. Our players have superior strength and size, despite UCLA’s depth in the frontcourt, and must utilize this to box their men out and clear house on the glass.
- Backcourt Defense – The Husky backcourt defense is definitely the strong point of our team and where UCLA’s offense is weakest in terms of ball handling. If the Dawgs can abuse this and get into transition, they stand a very good chance of blowing UCLA out of the water. The UCLA big men are not good in transition, especially Smith, and getting numbers in our favor will be much easier this way.
- Free Throws – I really don’t know what to say that I haven’t already said a thousand times. Free throws win ball games and with some home cooking hopefully heading our way, the Dawgs need to capitalize or risk keeping UCLA in the game. The best way for our team to get and score free throws is by having Wilcox and Ross attack the lanes. They are great foul shooters and are extremely capable in the paint.
This is a very winnable game for the Dawgs and one has to think that with the Arizona win still in the back of their minds, the Huskies are feeling strong and capable. Hopefully this means a big time win and an impressive home showing, something that hasn’t truly happened since the opening tournament. I would really like to see this squad control the game from the opening tip, keeping their foot on the Bruins’ necks until the final minute. Too often, the Huskies slow their game down in the waning minutes and allows the opposition to close the gap. I’m all for getting our bench players in, but at this point in the season and our current weak standing, in terms of a tournament resume, we need all the big time wins we can get. This means going hard the full 40 minutes versus killing the clock.
Final Score Prediction: UW-88 UCLA-74