Wednesday, January 25, 2006

UCLA vs. Oregon - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.17 ranked UCLA Bruins (15-4, 5-2) take on the Oregon Ducks (10-9, 4-3) in Eugene on Thursday.

The Bruins received good news yesterday when it learned senior forward Cedric Bozeman was cleared to play in practice and games. He is expected to play 15-20 minutes against Oregon.

However, another Bruin was hit by the injury bug when freshman Darren Collison sprained his left ankle on Saturday. Collison missed practice the last two days but will practice today and is expected to play against Oregon.

The cover of Oregon's basketball media guide portrays the Ducks as "Speed Racers", yet lately, the Ducks have been more comfortable driving in the slow lane.

Instead of an up and down game one would expect from an athletic Oregon team, we'll see the Ducks be more patient in setting up their offensive sets in the half court.

"We still run and get up and down the floor," Oregon head coach Ernie Kent said. "We've just made it slower in terms of not turning it over as much, not trying to make as many home-run plays."

The Ducks have transformed themselves out of necessity. Despite a talented roster of players, Oregon finished a mediocre non-conference schedule with only a 6-6 record.

Kent decided his team was better off not trying to replicate the breakneck pace of past Duck teams and the results have been somewhat promising.

Oregon has a 4-3 record in Pac-10 conference play. The Ducks are undefeated at home this season in conference play which included an impressive win over Arizona.

Last week the Ducks beat Washington St. 52-50 at Pullman but then were routed by Washington 78-59.

The Ducks are led by sophomore forward Malik "Carmelo" Hairston (6'6, 200). He is averaging 15.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Hairston can hit from anywhere on the court; he is shooting 48% from the field, and 45% from beyond the 3-point arc.

A healthy Cedric Bozeman would have been a good size and athletic match-up for Hairston. Michael Roll has done a good job defensively against his opposing number at SF but Hairston plays at another level. Most likely we'll see Arron Afflalo, Michael Roll, and Cedric Bozeman take their turns matching up with Hairston.

Junior Aaron Brooks (6'0, 165) runs the team from the point. Brooks, a highly recruited prep star, has endured injuries and inconsistent play during his college career. His unven play was the main reason Kent decided to change the team's offensive tempo and scheme.

Brooks is averaging 11.7 points and 4.5 assists per game; however, he is shooting 39% from the field and only 29% on 3-pointers. In his last game against Washington, he scored only 4 points on 2-12 shooting.

Guard Bryce Taylor (So, 6'5, 205) is averaging 9.8 pointer per game and shooting 40% from the field. He has struggled form the 3-point line this year shooting only 27% from the arc although he is still capable of putting together an impressive game. He hit 2-5 on 3-pointers against Washington.

Forward Maarty Leunen (So, 6'9, 215) suffered an ankle sprain two weeks ago and has played sparingly although he did play in both games last week. He is the team's leading rebounder with 6.9 rebounds per game and also averages 7.8 points per contest. Leunen likes to face up and shoot from the perimeter; he shoots 30% on 3-pointers.

Jordan Kent (Jr, 6'5, 205), the coach's son, has played in Leunan's place in the starting line-up. He is a nice complimentary player who plays to get his teammates involved in the game. He averages only 1.4 points and 4 rebounds per game but his value to the team goes beyond the box score.

Center Adam Zahn (Jr, 6'8, 230) is averaging 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per contest. He averages only 0.3 blocks per game.

Ivan Johnson (Jr, 6'8, 255) was supposed to be a key part of the team but instead has been a distraction. He was suspended by Kent for non-academic reasons earlier in the season. When playing, Johnson provides a perimeter-oriented Duck team with a tough and active presence inside the paint. Johnson is averaging 8.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals a game.

Brandon Lincoln (Sr, 6'4, 195) is the team's valuable sixth man. He provides solid offense and defense off the bench. Lincoln is averaging 6.0 points per game and shoots 40% on 3-pointers.

Chamberlain Oguchi (So, 6'5, 195) is a shooter off the bench although he has struggled with his shooting this year. He averages 35% from the field but has done well on 3-pointers by shooting 33%.

Oregon has played like an average team this year but it has the potential to be a very good team. If coach Ernie Kent is able to assemble the misfit pieces he started with this season, the Ducks still may be an NIT team. If not, Kent's job may be in jeopardy at the end of the season.

The Bruin's Arron Afflalo has struggled with his shot over the last few games. Head coach Ben Howland feels Afflalo has been relying too much on his outside shot and wants him to drive and attack the basket more often to keep opposing defenders off balance. Currently teams are playing him to take the perimeter shot.

Senior Ryan Hollins is coming off his best game of the season against WVU. Hollins scored 11 points and grabbed 8 rebounds in the game. He also was a dominating defensive factor in the paint for the Bruins.

After losing to a tough West Virginia team at home on Saturday, the Bruin team will try to regroup on the road. After the game on Saturday, Howland said "The pressure we faced today (against WVU) will help us on our road games in the coming weeks".



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