Tuesday, November 21, 2006

UCLA vs. Georgia Tech - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The UCLA Bruins face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the finals of the Maui Invitational Wednesday evening.

After finishing last season 10-17 overall and 4-12 in the ACC, Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Hewitt has reloaded with one of the top freshmen classes in the nation.

Georgia Tech (5-0) starts a young line-up which includes one junior, one sophomore, and three freshmen. 

They are a very athletic team especially along the front court.  Against a talented Memphis team, the Yellow Jackets dominated inside and controlled the glass outrebounding the Tigers by fifteen - ten on the offensive end.

One of the question marks about Georgia Tech coming into this season was the quality of their three-point shooting.  Junior Anthony Morrow had been counted on to contribute but he has struggled with his range this season.  Sophomore guard Lewis Clinch (6'3 190 lb) has stepped forward and provided a three-point threat shooting 50% from the field. He is averaging 16.0 points a game.

Starting at point-guard is highly-rated Javaris Crittenton (6'5, 195 lb).  Although just a freshman, Crittenton has a very mature game and is well-fitted for the Yellow Jackets uptempo attack.  His size and length will cause problems for opposing point-guards.

Mario West (6'4, 208 lb) is the team's only senior.  West is Georgia Tech's best defender in the backcourt and is a calming influence on the floor.  He may see extensive time against the Bruins especially if the younger players get rattled by the Bruin's half-court pressure.

Darren Collison will likely start on defense against Crittenton and use his speed to harass the young freshman, although it wouldn't be surprising to see Arron Afflalo switch off and guard him at times depending on the situation. Freshman Russell Westbrook played only 9 minutes against Kentucky but may see more floor time against Georgia Tech due to match-ups.

Freshman forward Thaddeus Young (6'8, 215 lb), who many felt would have jumped to the NBA if not for the new eligibility rule, is averaging 15.3 points and 4.8 rebounds a game so far this season.  He is a slasher-type player who is quick off the dribble and an excellent offensive rebounder - more than half his rebounds are on the offensive end.   While extremely talented, Young is still learning the game and is foul prone.

Another freshman starting at the forward is Zack Peacock (6'7, 238 lb).  One of the many Yellow Jacket front court players who are active and physical inside.  He is averaging 10.0 points and 3.3 rebounds a game.

At the other front court position is junior Jeremis Smith who is listed at a generous 6'8, 232 lb- he's closer to 6'6.  Despite his size, he likes to bang in the low post and knows how to use his body to get off shots and get to rebounds.  Most of his offense comes from inside the paint or off the offensive glass.

The first big man off the bench will be junior Ra'Sean Dickey (6'9, 255).  He is another very physical player.  His play has been somewhat erratic and inconsistent, however, he can score off the low blocks and has an effective mid-range jumper.  He is the team's leading rebounder (7.5) and shot-blocker (1.8).  He may start tomorrow depending on how Coach Hewitt wants to match-up with the Bruins.

With so many young players playing key roles, the Yellow Jackets are still learning how to play as a unit.  The Bruins pressure defense may be difficult for the young Yellow Jackets to handle, especially since UCLA can match their athleticism and quickness. 

Against Kentucky, the Bruins played solid defense for almost the length of the entire game - the first time this season.

If the Bruins can maintain order on the boards and limit Georgia Tech to just one shot per possession, they should do well on Wednesday.

(See comments for additional coverage)

(photo credit: AP)



At Nov 21, 2006, 11:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm interested on what your thoughts are on how the Bruins will matchup defensively along the frontcourt. I would think that Mbah a Moute would start out on Young because he's the only one who can match his size and athleticism though that would probably bring Mbah a Moute away from the basket more and limit his ability to grab defensive rebounds. But what about the other two matchups?
Mata is more of a banger than Shipp so I would think you would match him up with the more physical Smith but wouldn't that be giving Tech more of a size advantage at the other matchup?
In the end, I think the game comes down to rebounding and free throws which kind of scares me a bit.

At Nov 22, 2006, 12:52:00 AM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

Dickey and Smith are experienced and active inside players, they will be difficult to keep off the boards. Mata is UCLA's best post defender and rebounder and will likely start against Smith/Dickey.
As for the forward positions, Thaddeus Young is more talented but Peacock is more developed physically and stays closer to the basket. Mbah a Moute will probably check Peacock at the start, but it wouldn't be surprising if Howland moved him down to the 3 to matchup with GT at times, especially if Josh Shipp has probems defensively with Young.
Coach Howland has said in the past Mbah a Moute would play some 3 this year in certain matchups. In addition, Aboya played some minutes at the 4 against Kentucky with Wright and Mata at center.
This is one of those team matchups where the Bruins miss Ced Bozeman. Above all his talents, Coach Howland cherished Ced's defense the most. Though only 6'6, his length and on-the-ball dogged pressure wore opposing wingmen down.
One other GT front court not mentioned above is Mouhammad Faye a 6'10 forward who may see limited minutes off the bench. He's a very raw player at this point but may have an impact later in the season. He has a 7'1 wingspan, good athleticism, and can hit from the perimeter.


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