Friday, December 23, 2005

UCLA vs. Sacramento St. - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

Holiday break? Not for the UCLA basketball squad.

The No.12 Bruins (9-1) will be playing their third game in a span of seven days when they face the Sacramento St. Hornets on Friday at Pauley Pavilion.

Sacramento St. (8-4) are winners of seven of their last nine games and are off to their best start in history and some are predicting the Hornets to win the Big Sky conference this year.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland and the Bruins should be pretty familiar with teams from the Big Sky conference. Weber St., Howland's alma mater ('78-'80), is in the Big Sky; as is Montana and UC Davis who each have taken turns beating Stanford this year; and finally Northern Arizona which gave coach Howland his first head coaching job ('94-'99).

The Hornets are deep and athletic, play a three guard offense, but lack a low post offensive threat. However, Hornet's head coach Jerome Jenkins team plays a pressing, up and down, 40 minute full-court game. Coach Jenkins rotates 10-12 players throughout the game to maintain the pressure on the opposing team.

The pressure defense has allowed the Hornets to have +50 steals over their opponents in 12 games this year. Guard DaShawn Freeman and forward Alex Bausley average 2.2 steals each per game.

The Hornets use mostly pick-and-rolls and their player's individuals abilities to break down defenders off the dribble and create shooting opportunities for teammates - kicking out for the open shot.

Sacramento St. likes to take a lot of 3PT shots averaging 21 attempts per game and hitting at a 36% clip. The Hornets have five players who have averaged at least three 3PT FG attempts per game.

Senior (5'11,175) point guard DaShawn Freeman is the captain of the team. Freeman leads the team in scoring (14.3 ppg) and assists (5.4 apg), and hits from 3PT land at 51%. His running mate in the backcourt is another speedster junior 5'11, 170) Haran Hargrave (11 ppg).

Senior 6'4 wing Jason Harris and junior 6'6 Alex Bausley are the Hornet's leading rebounders at 5.4 rpg, and both score in double figures with 13.7 and 12.4 ppg respectively.

The Hornets start an experienced lineup but they also have Loren Leath, a 6'2 freshman guard, who is averaging almost 10 ppg and hits better on 41% of his 3PT attempts. Leath scored 23 points in his last game.

For the Bruins, it may have been fatigue, but the starting backcourt of Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo had problems staying in front of the smaller, quicker Wagner guards on Wednesday.

The Sacramento St. guards will pose even more of a challenge due to the team's running style. Nonetheless, the quickness of the Bruin backcourt will be severely tested in this game.

We may see Darren Collison, whose improved play has sparked the Bruins in the last few wins, play even more minutes on Saturday.

It wouldn't be surprising to see the Bruins go with a smaller, quicker line-up as well with perhaps Luc Richard Mbah a Moute seeing time at center.

And due to smaller match-ups we may see more of Michael Roll in the game. Roll played only 8 minutes against Wagner, going 0-2 from the field, and he did not play against Michigan.

In opposing team comparisons, Sacramento St. lost to Nevada 82-74 in an away game in Reno.

Playing a team that plays an entire 98 feet for 40 minutes and having to fight through picks and then to close out on five different 3-point shooters is probably not the type of game a weary Bruin squad is looking forward to playing.

The Bruins, playing their third game in a span of seven days, looked and played tired against a good Wagner squad on Wednesday.

Coach Howland gave the team the day off today from court practice but he had the players watch the video from the Wagner game -- every single defensive play. Howland was not happy with the 54% FG shooting by Wagner.

"I hope those people who are telling our guys how good they are will stop", Howland said after Wednesday's game, "We still need to get better in a lot of areas."

After starting slow in their past few games and winning, the Bruins can not afford to start slow against Sacramento St. There is only so much fuel in the tank, and their gauge may be reading low at this point.

Still, the Bruins have the better athletes, and most importantly, a coach who knows how to win tough games under difficult circumstances. The Bruins should pull out a victory in this one.

Notes: This is the Bruins last non-conference game before they face Stanford on Dec.29 to open Pac-10 play. Josh Shipp is scheduled to make his first start in that game.



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