Thursday, March 02, 2006

UCLA vs. California - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.13 ranked Bruins visit Haas Pavilion on Thursday to play the California Bears in a game which may decide the Pac-10 regular season championship.

UCLA enters the game with a one-game lead over both Cal and Washington in the Pac-10 race. If the Bruins win, they will be guaranteed no less than a tie for the conference title.

On December 31 at Pauley Pavilion, the Bears upset the Bruins, 68-61, in a game which Cal’s frontline of Leon Powe, Devon Hardin, and Rod Benson physically dominated the Bruins inside.

Cal out-rebounded UCLA 32-25 and limited the Bruins to 36.7% shooting from the field.

However, the Bruins will come in with a significantly different team than the one which faced Cal in the first game. (Link: see previous story).

UCLA has been playing inconsistent basketball lately in which they've been unable to put together a complete 40 minute effort.

Although the Bruins swept both Oregon schools last week, they shot a combined 19-47 (40.5%) in the first half but then sizzled in the second half shooting 33-48 (68.8%) to rally for victories.

While the Bruins have been inconsistent, the Cal Bears have struggled.

Cal has lost two of their last three games which included a loss to last-place Arizona St. in Berkeley. The only Cal win during the span was a two point slugfest over Washington St., 43-41.

The Bears are led by Leon Powe (So, 6’8, 240). He leads the Pac-10 in rebounding (10.1) and is second in scoring (19.9) behind Washington’s Brandon Roy. Over his past five games, Powe is averaging 24.0 points and shooting 59.7% from the floor (40-67) and 75.5% from the free throw line (40-53).

Powe faces double-teams in most every game, and the first Bruin meeting was no different. Whenever Powe touched the ball down low, UCLA doubled down on him, and they were moderately successful, limiting him to only 5 points on 1-7 shooting although he grabbed 12 rebounds.

However, whenever Powe was double-teamed it usually left DeVon Hardin (So, 6’11, 235) either wide-open underneath or guarded one-on-one by a smaller Bruin player – usually Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. He finished with 10 points on 4-5 shooting and had key baskets down the stretch.

The Bears also bring in Rod Benson (Sr, 6’10, 220) off the bench. He scored 8 points against the Bruins on 4-8 shooting. There was a chance Benson would not play the rest of the season after he had injured his knee eight weeks ago, but he has returned to the line-up and appears to be at full strength after playing 21 minutes against Washington last week.

The Bruins frontline will be severely tested in this game, although UCLA will have better individual match-ups this time around.

UCLA's seven-footer Ryan Hollins will start the game and should be able to neutralize Hardin defensively. Although Hardin is athletic, he does not possess strong post moves and will certainly have difficulty scoring against the bigger Hollins.

Although the Bruins doubled Powe most of the last game, there were times when they allowed Alfred Aboya to play Powe straight-up - and Aboya did fairly well.

Aboya has gotten stronger with each game since returning from his knee injury, and it would not be surprising to find the Bruins match-up Powe one-on-one with Aboya at times.

In addition, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute played only 23 minutes in the last game against Cal due to early foul trouble. Most of the fouls he committed were reaching fouls, and he should be able avoid them this time around. Mbah a Moute had a season-low three rebounds in the game.

Michael Fey, the forgotten Bruin, may be called upon to contribute in this game. He has averaged six minutes in the last two games, and can provide UCLA with additional bulk down low, or at least five fouls.

Although Cal’s frontline dominated inside play in the December contest, it was their guards who provided most of the scoring. Ayinde Ubaka (18 points), Richard Midgley (12 points), and Omar Wilkes (12 points) combined for 14-24 (58%) shooting in the game at Pauley – well above each of their individual season’s average.

Ubaka (Jr, 6’4, 200) has been struggling lately with his shooting, hitting only 30% from the field in his last five games. He is averaging 14.6 points and 3.8 assists per game for the season.

In the last game, Cal stalled the UCLA transition game by pressing Farmar full-court. It was a very effective ploy which worked primarily due to the fact Farmar was hobbled by a severely sprained ankle he had suffered in an earlier game against Stanford. But Farmar’s ankle is healthier now which may lead to more transition basket opportunities for UCLA.

UCLA will likely still double-down on Powe, especially if they start Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on him, but they may be more selective in their doubles this time around. Alfred Aboya will certainly see more time against Powe in the game.

Although Cal out-rebounded UCLA in the last game, the Bruins have been the better overall rebounding team in conference play. The Bruins have +3.9 rebounding margin against opponents, while Cal have a -0.3 margin – surprising considering their big frontline.

Cal takes care of the ball extremely well averaging only 11.4 turnovers a game – best in the Pac-10 conference. The Bears have had more than 15 turnovers only once, and have had 10 or less in games nine times.

UCLA will need to come out with a lot of energy and intensity against Cal on Thursday, and their frontline will need to come up with a strong effort against the Bears' big men.

Cal will play a mix of zone and man-to-man against the Bruins, especially considering UCLA has struggled scoring against zone defenses all season long.

The Bruins are 5-2 on the road in conference play, with their only two setbacks at Washington and USC.

UCLA will play Stanford in their last Pac-10 regular season conference game on Saturday.

Injury Update: Alfred Aboya was held out of practice this week as a precautionary measure to prevent him from re-aggravating his groin injury, but he is expected to play against both Cal and Stanford.

It appears Lorenzo Mata's rehabilitation has not progressed enough for him to help the team this year. "I am not counting on Lorenzo Mata impacting our team any further this season," Howland said.



Post a Comment

<< Back To Bruin Basketball Report Home