Wednesday, January 04, 2006

UCLA vs. Arizona - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.17 UCLA Bruins (11-2, 1-1) travel to Tucson for a game with the No.21/23 Arizona Wildcats (9-3, 2-0) at McKale Center on Jan.5.

UCLA is coming off a disappointing home defeat to California on Saturday. The Bears halted the Bruins transition game and forced the Bruins into a half-court game where they shot 36.7% from the field and only 29.4% from 3PT - while the Bears shot 52% from the field and outrebounded the Bruins by 6.

UCLA head coach Ben Howland stresses FG% defense and rebounding above all statistics, and his Bruins did not get the job done in those areas against Cal. The Bruins must improve in both areas if they hope to get a win against Arizona this week.

The Bruins were either hobbled or without key players against California. Both Jordan Farmar and Ryan Wright played despite injuring their ankles against Stanford - while seniors Cedric Bozeman (shoulder), Michael Fey (ankle), and Ryan Hollins (groin) were also sidelined. Against California, UCLA head coach Ben Howland played four sophomores and five freshmen for the entire game.

The Wildcats recently had its string of 312 consecutive regular-season AP appearances just end two weeks ago; however, the Wildcats have come roaring back and are once again ranked in both polls this week.

In Arizona's last game, they defeated the Washington Huskies 96-95 in double-overtime at Washington. The Wildcats were down by 13 points at halftime and withstood last second Husky shots to push the game into two extra periods. The Wildcats won when Kirk Walters hit a free throw with five seconds remaining in the second overtime ending the Huskies own 32 game homecourt win streak.

Arizona, similar to UCLA, relies heavily on their defense and the play of their perimeter players. The Wildcats start three guards: Mustafa Shakur (Junior, 6'3, 190), Chris Rodgers (Sr, 6'4, 205), and Hassan Adams (Sr, 6'4, 220).

The Wildcat's starting guards account for almost 60% of the total offense and Shakur and Adams are the first and third best rebounders on the team with 4.5 and 6.7 rpg, respectively.

The three guard combination also combines for 7.2 steals per game. In comparison, the UCLA team averages 5.7 steals. Not surprisingly, Arizona leads the Pac-10 in steals with 11.67 per game. The Wildcats like to press and overplay on the outside and are quick into the passing lane to disrupt offenses for tips or steals.

Hassan Adams is Arizona's most valuable player and was recently voted the Pac-10 player of the week for the second consecutive time. Adams is a rugged, all around player who averages 20.8 points and 2.9 steals. He had been struggling from 3PT land, but hit 5 of 7 from 3PT on his way to a career high 32 points against Washington.

Adams keys the Wildcat offense and defense with his aggressive play and fiery leadership. The Bruin's best defensive match-up against Adams would have been senior Cedric Bozeman who had the size, length, and speed to counter Adams, but Bozeman is out for at least another three weeks with a shoulder injury.

Thus, the Bruins will counter with Arron Afflalo. The sophomore guard is the Bruin's best on-ball defender and is usually stronger and faster than his opponent, but he will have all he can handle with the very physical Adams.

Additionally, Afflalo will need to work extra hard to keep Adams off the offensive boards - Adams averages 3 offensive rebounds a game. Afflalo has been the Bruins best offensive player averaging 18.6 ppg and will pose a difficult match-up for Adams on the other end as well.

Sophomore Mustafa Shakur averages 10.6 ppg, 4.1 apg, and 1.7 spg. He equaled his career best 23 points against Washington but has been struggling from 3PT shooting only 25% from behind the arc. Shakur is a solid floor leader and makes good decisions - he has an assist/turnover ratio of 1.48.

The Bruins will start Jordan Farmar on Shakur which should be quite a spirited battle. Farmar played 36 minutes and scored only 6 points against California despite reinjuring his right ankle against Stanford. Although Farmar did not use his injury as an excuse for his subpar play, but the injury clearly inhibited his play on both ends of the court.

The Bruins will clearly need a healthy Jordan Farmar to help take care of the ball against a dangerous, gambling Wildcat defense. Farmar will also need to keep Shakur off the boards throughout the game. Last week, Farmar did not block out Omar Wilkes allowing him to rebound and dunk the ball at a key juncture of the game against Cal.

Freshman Darren Collison will be called upon again to give quality minutes at the point. Although Collison has provided a spark to the offense when needed this season, he at time has been tentative in implementing the Bruin offense in their half-court sets.

Against California, Collison scored 8 points but had no assists and 3 turnovers. With Farmar perhaps not 100% and facing a pressing Arizona defense, Collison will need to be more decisive and take good care of the ball on Thursday.

With Salim Stoudamire in the NBA and Jawann McClellan academically ineligible, the Wildcats have struggled as a team from behind the arc, averaging only 29.7%. Chris Rodgers has been the primary Arizona 3PT threat but has been inconsistent, shooting 32% from 3PT and only 33% total from the field. But Rodgers is taking care of things on the defensive end averaging 2.6 steals per game.

Sophomore forward Josh Shipp who is still working on his conditioning will need to work hard on the defensive end chasing down Rodgers. Shipp has scored in double figures in both games since his return, and the Bruins will certainly need Shipp to improve not only on his scoring but his rebounding as well. Shipp has averaged only 3 rpg in 28 minutes of play, but of course, recovery from hip surgery takes some time and just another reason why the injury to Cedric Bozeman has hurt the team.

Arizona head coach Lute Olson decided just before the start of Pac-10 play to start freshman Marcus Williams (6'7, 205) at one forward instead of 6'10 Kirk Walters. Although the Wildcats lose height without Walters, they gain speed and aggressive play from Williams who is averaging 10.6 ppg and 3.4 rpg, and scored 16 points and grabbed 9 rebounds against Washington.

UCLA's own freshman forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had his first bad outing as a Bruin in the California game - scoring only 3 points and failing for the first time this season to lead the Bruins in rebounding by grabbing only 3 in the game. Mbah a Moute got into early foul trouble and did not adjust to playing against the big Cal front line. The Bruins will need Mbah a Moute to regain his rebounding edge in this game.

The Bruin's other freshman from Cameroon, Alfred Aboya, played his best game as a Bruin on both ends against Cal. He was aggressive underneath the basket and was the only Bruin low post player to effectively match up against the Cal post players. Aboya has been playing primarily power forward since his return to the lineup but he played the final three minutes at center against Cal. It would not be surprising to find Aboya at the five spot especially if either Ryan Wright and Lorenzo Mata falter.

In the middle, the Wildcats start Ivan Radenovic (Jr, 6'10,244). Radenovic can post up or shoot from the outside although he most prefers facing up and shooting from the perimeter. Radenovic is hitting from 3PT at a 35% clip. He is also their second leading rebounder at 5.9.

The Bruin's Lorenzo Mata and Ryan Wright struggled against Cal last weekend. The team will need an especially strong rebounding effort from them, especially with the playing status of senior centers, Michael Fey and Ryan Hollins still unknown. Mata and Wright combined for only 5 rebounds and no blocked shots against Cal. (injury update note: both Michael Fey and Ryan Hollins are not expected to play against Arizona)

The Wildcats have Kirk Walters, 6'6 J.P Prince, and 6'6 Bret Brielmaier to give them some depth off the bench, especially Walters who averages 6.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, and 2 bpg.

To win, the Bruins will need to play better defense and rebound better than they did against Cal. In addition to shooting over 50%, Cal also shot 60% from 3PT.

Arizona keys their transition game off turnovers they create. The Bruins also like to run and get easy transition baskets, but similar to the Memphis game, its unlikely coach Howland will want to get into a running game with Arizona. However, if an easy transition basket is available to the Bruins, he'll take it.

Instead Howland will most likely stress strong team defense and rebounding - not a surprise. Like the Bruins, Arizona does not have a great half-court offense and have struggled when they haven't been able to create easy scores with fast break opportunities.

Arizona swept the Bruins last year. Last February Arizona beat the Bruins 83 to 73.

This game is important to both teams in more than just the win column. For Arizona, they are building their respectability again after dropping out of the rankings recently. As for the Bruins, the loss to California exposed their weakness inside and impact of their injuries.

It will be interesting to see how this young Bruin team responds and how it bounces back from adversity.



Post a Comment

<< Back To Bruin Basketball Report Home