Wednesday, February 01, 2006

UCLA vs. Arizona State - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.13 ranked UCLA Bruins tip-off the second half of their Pac-10 season at Pauley Pavilion against the Arizona St. Sun Devils (ASU) Thursday night.

UCLA (17-4, 7-2) returned home this week after sweeping both Oregon schools. The Bruins are first place in the Pac-10 conference one game ahead of Arizona, California, and Stanford.

ASU (7-11, 1-8) has lost their last three games and eight of their last nine. The Sun Devils lost their last game to Arizona, 80-70, last week in Tempe. They sit at the bottom of the Pac-10 conference six games behind the Bruins.

In their last meeting three weeks ago, UCLA escaped out of Tempe with a 61-60 victory when UCLA’s Jordan Farmar scored the winning lay-up with just 3.6 seconds left in the game.

UCLA was behind at halftime to ASU 29-23. Farmar had re-aggravated his ankle against Arizona in a game earlier in the week and was playing hurt. The Bruins shot poorly from the outside hitting on only 1-15 shots from beyond the arc.

The Bruins played poorly on defense with the Sun Devil guards repeatedly dribble-penetrating into their defense setting up easy scores inside. ASU's guards Kevin Kruger and Antwi Athuahenewere combined for twelve assists in the game.

ASU was highly successful with their pick in rolls plays against UCLA. The Bruins were slow in their rotations and the Sun Devils capitalized with easy lay-ups and dunks off their sets. ASU will certainly test the Bruins early on to learn if they're able to defend it on Thursday. The Sun Devils shot 47.2% in the game.

Although they were out-shot in the field by the Sun Devils, the Bruins stayed close because they began to aggressively attack the basket and were getting to the free throw line. The Bruins went to the line 29 times and made 24 (82.8%) while the Sun Devils shot only 6-13 free throws.

UCLA also out-rebounded Arizona St by a huge margin 36-27. “We won this game”, Howland said afterwards, “because we made our foul shots and out-boarded them.”

The Sun Devils are led by senior guard Kevin Kruger who is averaging 14.9 points and 3.9 assists per game. He leads the Pac-10 in minutes played with 38.2 minutes a game and three-point field goals made per game with 2.7. Kruger scored 11 points against UCLA in their last meeting.

Forward Serge Angounou (Jr, 6’8, 230) played his best game of the season against the Bruins recording a season high 23 points and 15 rebounds. Angounou, who hails from Cameroon, appeared especially motivated playing against his fellow, and younger, countrymen at UCLA - freshmen Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alfred Aboya.

Both Bruin freshmen had difficulty containing Angounou, in addition, the two combined for only five points in the game. No doubt Mbah a Moute and Aboya have been looking forward to this re-match with Angounou. For the season, Angounou averages 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds a game.

Freshman Jeff Pendergraph (Fr, 6'10, 210) began the last game against the Bruins by hitting two jumpers from the baseline but then got into early foul trouble playing only 17 minutes. He finished with 11 points in the game.

Pendergraph is exceeding all expectation at ASU. He is averaging 9.2 points per game and is tied for fifth in the Pac-10 in field goal percentage shooting 52.2 %. Among Pac-10 freshman, he is third in rebounds per game (5.2) and second in blocks per game (1.7).

Freshman forward Sylvester Seay did not play in the last game against the Bruins. Over the last three games, he has averaged over 20 minutes, 8.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. At 6'9 Seay gives the Sun Devils more size up front.

ASU’s Bryson Krueger (Jr, 6'7, 190) has been inconsistent with his shooting this year. He is shooting 41% from the field, although hitting on 42% of his three-point shots. In recent games, the freshman Seay has been taking more of Krueger's minutes - primarily due to ASU's coach Rob Evan's need for more rebounding and defense underneath.

Antwi Atuahene (So, 6'4, 205) is playing 25 minutes game and is averaging 7.9 points and 3.9 assists per game. ASU played much better with him in the game against UCLA, and he has since supplanted senior guard Tyrone Jackson as a starter on the team.

The Sun Devil's lack of contribution off the bench has been a major concern for ASU all year. Coach Rob Evans said yesterday he plans to give his starters more minutes this week against UCLA.

"We haven't had much production lately out of our bench," he said. "And when we went to our bench we had a drop off."

In the Arizona game, aside from Chad Goldstein, ASU reserves played a total of only six minutes.

The Bruins currently lead the Pac-10 in scoring defense allowing only 59.9 points per game and are second in FG% defense at 41% and 3-point FG% defense at 34%.

Bruin's senior Ryan Hollins has keyed the Bruins defense since his return from a groin injury five game ago. He has averaged nine points and five rebounds in his last four games; but more importantly he has played excellent team defense.

"When I came back," Hollins said, "I wanted to make whatever time I have left on the court worthwhile. I have a better idea now of what the coach wants and what I have to do to stay on the floor."

"I'm really proud of Ryan", Howland said, "All the work he put in this summer is now paying off for him".

Sophomore guard Arron Afflalo took a few days off from shooting this week and hopes to regain his shooting form at home against the Arizona schools.

"The more energy, the more spring I have in my legs, the better I'm going to perform." Afflalo said, It's not hard to understand, but staying away from basketball in general, I guess, that's been hard."

After Thursday night's game the Bruins will face the Arizona Wildcats in a key match-up of conference heavyweights on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.



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