Friday, January 06, 2006

UCLA vs. Arizona St - Game Preview

After a big win against the Arizona Wildcats, the No.17 ranked UCLA Bruins (12-2, 2-1) must guard against complacency when they take on the Arizona St. Sun Devils (6-6, 0-3) in Tempe on Saturday, Jan. 7.

UCLA head coach Ben Howland needs to have his young Bruin team look back no further than last night’s Sun Devils game against the USC Trojans.

After dropping their first two Pac-10 games on the road in the state of Washington, the Sun Devils came home to host a surprising Trojan team. The Sun Devils led the Trojans for most of the game and were still ahead by six points with less than two minutes left in game but then let it slip away. With 2.1 seconds remaining and down by two points, the Trojan’s Loderick Stewart hit a 3-point shot for the game winner to help the Trojans escape with a 66-65 victory

Arizona St. is not expected to compete for the Pac-10 title this year. The Sun Devils lost their Pac-10 conference player of the Ike Diogu to the NBA in last year’s draft But the Sun Devils showed last night they can compete on any given night.

The Sun Devils are led by 6’2 junior guard Kevin Kruger (15.6ppg, 4.1 apg) and 6’7 junior forward Bryson Krueger (13.8ppg). Both players shoot extremely well from the outside with each hitting above 40% from beyond the 3PT arc.

Last year, the pair gave the Bruins problems with their outside shooting in the game at Tempe. In that game Kruger scored 18 points while Krueger netted 16, but the Bruins prevailed and came away with a narrow 86-82 victory.

In addition to Bryson Krueger the Sun Devils start a front line of 6’10 freshman Jeff Pendergraph (8.8ppg, 5.5rpg) and 6’8 junior Serge Angounou (7.5ppg, 4.4rpg). Both have played inconsistently this year but against USC last night they took advantage of the Trojans soft interior and had their best game of the season. Pendergraph scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds while Angounou had a team high 19 points and hauled in 7 rebounds.

Both Sun Devil big men were surprisingly active underneath in the Trojan game and may give the young Bruin front line a challenge if they are not prepared to play.

The young Bruin front line will be looked upon to duplicate their strong performance from the game at Arizona. Centers Lorenzo Mata and Ryan Wright combined for 15 points and 10 rebounds while power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored 8 points and grabbed 9 rebounds. Alfred Aboya chipped in 5 points in just 7 minutes.

The young Bruin front line will be looked upon to keep Pendergraph and Angounou from duplicating their big numbers from the Trojan game.

Tyrone Jackson a 6’2 senior starts at the last guard spot. Jackson averages 6.2 ppg and 3.3 apg. Against the Trojans, Jackson did not score but had a team high 9 assists.

Arizona St. head coach Rob Evans brings in 6’4 guard Antwi Atuahene (6.2ppg), 6’9 forward Chad Goldstein (5.7 ppg) off the bench. Athuahene shoots over 50% from 3PT.

The Bruins already without the services of their four seniors Cedric Bozeman (shoulder), Ryan Hollins (groin), Michael Fey (ankle), and Janou Rubin (fever) may also play without sophomore guard Jordan Farmar.

Farmar re-aggravated his right ankle sprain in the first half of the Arizona, and although he returned to play 24 minutes, he is questionable for this game and may sit out this game and others.

“That might be the best thing," Farmar said. "I'm going to talk to my family and sit down with Coach and see what the best thing is for both of us."

If Farmar does not play, it would leave the Bruins with only eight scholarship players for the game.

The Bruins may have enough offensive fire power without Farmar. Arizona St. ranks last in scoring offense averaging 58 points per contest, next to last in scoring defense allowing 77.5 points, and last in FG% defense (44%).

Yet, if Arizona St. plays to the same level it did against the Trojans, the Bruins may have quite a game on their hands. Prior to last night's game, the Trojans had held opponents to a 38% FG shooting, but Arizona St. shot 52%.

With a roster shortened by injuries and the potential for the young Bruin team to let down after a big victory, coach Ben Howland will need to make sure his team is ready and geared up to play tomorrow. A split in the desert would be a shame at this point.

Note: Arizona St freshman Jeff Pendergraph and UCLA freshman Darren Collison were teammates on the Etiwanda High School team that went 31-2 last year.



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