Saturday, February 25, 2006

UCLA vs. Oregon - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No. 17 ranked UCLA Bruins take on the Oregon Ducks in a Sunday afternoon matinee Pac-10 conference game at Pauley Pavilion.

After routing the Oregon St. Beavers on Thursday, 78-60, the Bruins hope to be back on track after snapping their only two-game losing streak of the season.

UCLA (21-6, 11-4) scored 52 points on 75% field goal shooting in the second half to pull away from the Beavers.

"What a great second half," Howland said. "I can't wait to go watch that again. I'm sorry the last game of the season at Pauley is coming up Sunday. This is fun. I wish it was still December."

While the Bruins were defeating the Beavers in Westwood, the Ducks were at the Sports Arena facing the Trojans in a game with important implications to the upcoming Pac-10 tournament.

The Ducks (13-15, 7-9) and Trojans are battling for sixth spot in the conference. Teams 1st through sixth get a bye while teams in seventh through tenth play in first round games.

At the Sports Arena on Thursday, the Ducks Aaron Brooks scored a season-high 20 points and Malik Hairston scored 12 of his 18 points in the final twelve minutes of the game to lead Oregon to a 73-61 victory, their second in a row. The Ducks are now only 0.5 game behind the Trojans for sixth place.

In the last meeting at Eugene, the Bruins cruised to a 56-49 victory. Arron Afflalo, with help from some double-teams, held Hairston to only 6 points on 3-8 shooting. The Ducks were held to just 32% shooting in the game.

Since the Bruin game, the Ducks have played well although their record does not reflect it. In the last nine games, Oregon is 3-6 but has lost by only an average margin of 3.5 points a game.

Sophomore Malik Hairston (6’6, 200) is the quiet leader of the Ducks averaging 14.9 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He is shooting well this year hitting at 48% from the field and 41% on three-pointers.

Oregon’s sophomore wing Bryce Taylor suffered a hyper-extended knee injury on February 6 and is doubtful for Sunday’s game. Taylor was the Duck’s third leading scorer at 9.3 points per game.

Another Oregon sophomore, Chamberlain Oguchi (6’5, 195) has been playing extremely well since he was inserted in the starting line-up in place of Taylor. Oguchi is averaging 17.8 points in his last five games and has made 23 three-pointers in this span.

Oguchi gives the Ducks another scorer which the Bruin defenders need to concentrate on which may give Hairston more room to operate.

In the last game, the Bruins doubled Hairston whenever he touched the ball within 20 feet of the basket. We’ll likely see Afflalo and Cedric Bozeman switch off on assignments throughout the game and see time against both Hairston and Oguchi.

Howland has been giving Afflalo, who usually guards the opponent’s best offensive player, breaks on the defensive end by switching Bozeman onto his man. The Bruins rely heavily on Afflalo’s offense as well; he leads the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game.

The Duck’s starting point guard, Aaron Brooks, has had a difficult and inconsistent season. He is averaging 11.2 points per game but shooting barely 40% from the field and only 32% from beyond the three-point arc. In his last ten games, he has scored in double figures only three times.

In the last contest, Farmar did a good job on Brooks holding him to 8 points on 3-10 shooting. Farmar also made two key steals on Brooks late in the game which he converted into scores to key the Bruin’s last victory.

Sophomore Ray Schafer (7’0, 235) has been giving the Ducks quality minutes in the middle. He scored 13 points on 6 of 8 shooting against the Trojans.

The coach’s son, Jordan Kent, completes Oregon’s starting five. Although he is not a big scorer, he is the glue on the team, the player who does all the little things which can make a team successful.

Maarty Leunen (6’9, 215) has been coming off the bench lately. He still is the Duck’s leading rebounder at 6.6 and also averages 7.4 points per game.

Also coming off the bench is junior college transfer Ivan Johnson (6’8, 255), a bruising power forward, and who has had a tumultuous year at Oregon. He has been suspended for a few games this season due to his conduct. He is averaging 7.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

The Ducks have been playing solid defense this year, and can match the Bruin’s athleticism.

UCLA’s offense was more fluid in the second half with the players sharing the ball around the court, including inside the paint.

"This is the most fun I've had playing as a Bruin," said Afflalo, who finished with 20 points with 13 coming in the Bruin’s second half spurt.

The Bruins hope to have fun again on Sunday, and come away with another victory.

UCLA is tied for first place in the Pac-10 conference with California. The Bears face a tough match-up on Sunday against the No. 19 ranked Washington Huskies in Seattle.



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