Friday, February 03, 2006

UCLA vs. Arizona - Game Preview II

By Bruin Basketball Report

The UCLA Bruins (18-4, 8-2) play conference rivals, the Arizona Wildcats (13-8, 6-4), at Pauley Pavilion Saturday afternoon.

Arizona has made 21 consecutive trips to the NCAA tournament, the longest streak in the nation; however they are a struggling, troubled team and are in danger of not making it to the tournament this year.

At the Sports Arena Thursday night, Arizona outshot and outrebounded the Trojans but still managed to lose 74-63. The Wildcats accomplished this feat by committing 22 turnovers.

Arizona is playing without two players who were expected to be starters this year. Chris Rodgers was unceremoniously kicked off the team three weeks ago by Arizona coach Lute Olson; while McClellan tore a ligament in his wrist and is out for the year.

With the loss of Rodgers, the Wildcats are without their best backcourt defender and fourth leading scorer. McClellan was expected to provide the team with consistent scoring from the three-point line.

Arizona is not left without dangerous weapons but they are clearly playing like a deflated team. Yet, a visit to Pauley Pavilion to face their arch rivals, the Bruins, may be enough to inspire their play.

The Bruins defeated the Wildcats earlier in the year at Tucson, 85-79, while both teams were ranked in the top 25.

The Wildcats are led by Midseason Wooden Award nominee, senior Hassan Adams. Adams is averaging 19.0 points and 5.6 rebounds a game.

However, Adams did not play anything like an award nominee against the Trojans. He finished with a very quiet 9 points on 4 of 11 shooting and committed a team-high seven turnovers in the game.

Adams is a physical 6’4 220lb player who can leap out of gyms and overpower his defender on the block. The Bruin's Arron Afflalo, who is pretty physical himself, will match up with Adams for most of the game. In their last match-up, they cancelled out each other with Afflalo scoring 22 points and Adams 21 points.

“Whatever happened to Arizona last night (against USC) is the past, Afflalo said, “We always expect them to play hard.”

The Wildcats will need at least a 20+ point effort from Adams if the they expect to challenge the Bruins on Saturday.

With his Wildcats shooting only 33% from the three-point line, coach Lute Olson declared that only freshman Marcus Williams would have the green-light to shoot three-point shots in upcoming games. Williams is the only Wildcat shooting higher than 34% from beyond the three-point arc, averaging 47%.

In their last meeting, the 6’7 Williams scored 19 points against the Bruins. For the season he is averaging 11.7 points and 4.3 rebounds a game.

Cedric Bozeman, who did not play in the last game against Arizona due to a shoulder injury, will get the starting assignment against Williams which should be one of the more interesting match-ups to follow on Saturday.

Since his return Bozeman’s versatility has not been overlooked by his team. “Cedric has a steadying influence on our team”, coach Howland said.

Bozeman’s ability to lock down an opponent gives the Bruins two premier defenders on the perimeter which is especially valuable when the Bruins face talented offensive teams like an Arizona and teams in the tourney beyond.

Junior guard Mustafa Shakur played perhaps his worst game of his career in the last meeting against the Bruins. Shakur was 0 for 3 from the field and committed four turnovers. He played only 26 minutes when he was benched by coach Lute Olson for his lack of aggressiveness on the offensive end and his inability to play defense, in particular his troubles in guarding UCLA’s speedy Darren Collison.

Collison repeatedly drove past Shakur at Tucson finishing with 9 points and key lay-ups on drives at the end of the game. Shakur’s defense was so bad against Collison that coach Olson had to put Chris Rodgers on Collison which then left an over-matched
Shakur to defend Arron Afflalo.

Of course, Olson and Arizona no longer have Chris Rodgers to shut down anyone.

Arizona’s forward Ivan Radenovic is their leading rebounder averaging 6.5 rebounds and also adds 9.8 points a game.

In his last game against UCLA, Radenovic, who prefers to shoot from the perimeter, scored 17 points and was particularly effective scoring from the inside early on, but Arizona went away from Radenovic in the second half.

With Arizona struggling with their perimeter shooting,we may see them go inside more against the Bruins with both Radenovic and 6’10 center Kirk Walters.

Bruin center Ryan Hollins did not play against Arizona and will be looked upon by his team to continue his stellar play of late. Hollins has improved his defensive rebounding and has played good team defense in the paint.

The Bruins lead the conference in scoring defense allowing only 59.9 points per game, and more importantly lead the conference with a +6.1 scoring margin against opponents.

Although the Wildcats are averaging 75 points per game this season they are only averaging 64 points in their last four games.

Against Arizona St. on Thursday evening the Bruins came out flat against the Sun Devils, they can not afford to do the same against the Wildcats and must come out prepared to play with high energy.

With the loss of two key players and turmoil on the team the Wildcats are wounded, but a basketball rivalry as great as the one between UCLA and Arizona can lead to unpredictable happenings and finishes.

Game notes:
Jordan Farmar was recently nominated a finalist for the prestigious Bob Cousy Award presented to the most outstanding collegiate point guard in the nation.

Kevin Love and Kyle Singler, two of the highest-rated high school juniors in the nation, will be in attendance at Saturday's game. Both Love and Singler are considering attending UCLA.



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