Saturday, March 11, 2006

UCLA vs. California - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.1 seed UCLA Bruins (26-6, 14-4) play the No.3 seed California Bears for the Pac-10 tournament championship this afternoon at Staples Center.

California (20-9, 12-6) went into double-overtime to outlast the Oregon Ducks, 91-87 late Friday evening. With the victory, the Bears are almost assured a spot in the NCAA's field of 64.

Against Oregon, forward Leon Powe scored a career-high 41 points on 14-17 shooting from the floor and was 13-18 from the foul line.

He was helped by fellow All-Pac-10 Team member, Ayinde Ubaka, who finished with 17 points in the contest.

Freshman Theo Robertson has been playing key minutes for the Bears as of late. He scored 18 points against the Ducks and was 3-3 from three-point range.

Both Powe and Ubaka played heavy minutes in the Oregon game. Powe played 47 minutes while Ubaka was close behind with 46 minutes in the game.

With the title game beginning on Saturday at 3:00 PM, the Bears will not have much time to rest at their hotel before having to come back to the arena for the title game.

UCLA and California split their two regular season games with each team winning on the opponent’s home court. At Pauley Pavilion on New Year’s Eve, Cal defeated UCLA 68-61, while back at Haas Pavilion; the Bruins defeated the Bears 67-58.

Powe scored 20 points in the last game against the Bruins, but he was only able to score 5 points in the second half. UCLA’s strategy of sending fresh bodies at Powe to defend him appeared to wear him down during the second half.

The Bruins were selective with their double teams against Powe in the last game. Both Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alfred Aboya did a good job denying the ball to Powe. The two players from Cameroon will likely get the call again to defend Powe on Saturday.

After logging 47 minutes against Oregon, it will be interesting how Powe recovers to play on Saturday.

Ayinde Ubaka is the Bears’ second leading scorer with 14.6 points per game. He has scored in double figures in four games straight. Ubaka was only 3-14 for 12 points against UCLA in their last game. Arron Afflalo did a great job defending Ubaka and limiting his shot selection.

Cal’s freshman guard Theo Robertson (6’5, 240) has played well coming off the bench lately. He is averaging 5.8 points per game. He hit the key basket from the wing to force the last UCLA game into overtime which the Bruins eventually won.

With starting guard Omar Wilkes struggling offensively, Robertson may get more minutes against UCLA. He scored 18 points against Oregon in the semifinal and was 3-3 from three-point distance.

Cal’s center DeVon Hardin has struggled in tournament play and has averaged only 1 point and 4 rebounds in two games. But he has played tough defensively in both games against the Bruins this season.

UCLA's seven-footer Ryan Hollins is a good match-up against Hardin defensively. Although Hardin is athletic, he does not possess strong post moves and will have some difficulty scoring against the bigger Hollins.

The Bears' physical frontline has given UCLA trouble this season. Hollins, Aboya and Mbah a Moute will need to play a solid game on both ends of the court to neutalize Cal's advantage inside.

Sophomore guard Jordan Farmar looks to bounce back from a tough game against Arizona. He shot 2-6 for only 5 points in the game.

Senior Cedric Bozeman will be playing in the last Pac-10 game of his career. Despite injuring his left ankle against Oregon St. on Wednesday, he played 27 minutes against Arizona and scored 9 points and grabbed 4 rebounds.

"This is my last hurrah," said Bozeman, a fifth-year senior. "I want to go out with a bang.

UCLA’s depth has been the key to their victories so far in the tournament. The Bruin team has overpowered and out-hustled their opponents especially in the second half of play.

With Cal likely playing fatigued tomorrow due to the early start time and consecutive tournament games, UCLA's depth may very well be the deciding factor in the game.



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