UCLA vs. UC Riverside - Game Preview
By Bruin Basketball Report
Fresh off a big victory over Long Beach St., top-ranked UCLA (5-0) hosts another team from the Big West, the UC Riverside Highlanders (3-4), on Sunday afternoon.
Unfortunately, UC Riverside comes to Westwood reeling both on and off the court.
Tragedy hit the team on September 16th when forward Mark Hall was killed in an automobile accident on the 60 freeway in Moreno Valley. Aaron Scott, a 6'4 junior college transfer, incurred multiple injuries from the accident and is out for the rest of the season.
Earlier this month, second-year head coach David Spencer was granted a medical leave of absence from the team for undisclosed health reasons. Associate coach Von Webb has been serving as the team's interim coach.
More recently, the team was hit by additional season-ending injuries to players on their starting front line. B.J. Visman, the team's leading rebounder, announced he was red-shirting the rest of the season due to an injured wrist. Benoit Bekono, a 6'7 forward from Cameroon, was declared out for the rest of the season due to a dislocated knee he suffered in a game last week against San Diego St.
Even before all the turmoil, UCR had been picked in the preseason to finish at the bottom of the Big West conference this season. In 2005-06 the Highlanders finished 5-23 overall and 3-11 in conference play.
The Highlanders leading scorers are back court mates Justin Bell and Larry Cunningham.
Justin Bell (Sr, 5'10, 165), a red-shirt last season due to a knee injury, is averaging 13.7 points and 3.9 assists a game. He is a quick guard who is more effective in the open court than the half-court.
Larry Cunningham (Jr, 6'2, 190) is the Highlanders most athletic and complete player. He is averaging 13.1 points and is the team's second leading rebounder with 7.6 a game.
Chris Johnson (So, 6'0, 170), the team's third guard and likely starter on Sunday, averages 5.0 points a game.
Along the front line, the Highlanders are calling out for volunteers. Against UCLA, UCR will suit up only two front court players who have averaged more than 10 minutes a game this season.
Henrik Thomsen (Fr, 6'8, 200), a rail-thin forward, is averaging 6.8 points and 1.8 rebounds - he is more of a perimeter threat; and Christian Soto (So, 6'8, 220) is averaging 2.9 points and 2.4 rebounds. Both players will be forced into more action, in addition, Sean Anderson ( Fr, 6'10, 230) and Charles Jim-George (Fr, 6'4, 200) will also have to step up for the Highlanders.
UCLA will approach the game as they would any other regular season contest, but considering UCR's decimated roster the Bruins will probably have faced tougher opponents in Division II Cal Poly Pomona and Humboldt St during the exhibition season. UCR started NCAA Division I play in 2001-02.
BBR Notes: Sophomore center Ryan Wright played a season-high 12 minutes against Long Beach St. and should see more minutes against UCR. Wright had some bright moments against the 49ers on Tuesday including drawing two offensive charges in the paint. He appears to be getting more comfortable on the court as he gains more experience in games. UCLA could certainly use his size in the middle to back-up Lorenzo Mata especially once Pac-10 play begins in late December.
(photo credit: UCR Athletics)
Labels: Game Previews