Monday, December 04, 2006

UCLA vs. CS Fullerton - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA receives its third and final dose of Big West competition when the CS Fullerton Titans enter Pauley Pavilion for a Tuesday evening contest.

The top-ranked Bruins (6-0) had little trouble with Long Beach St. and UC Riverside from the Big West conference winning by a total margin of 63 points.  However, the Titans (5-1) are off to their best start since 1999 and have been awaiting this game since the start of the season.

Whereas the UC Riverside game was a lesson on how to run a stall offense, CS Fullerton is expected to apply pressure defense and an up-tempo running offense to leverage the team's speed and athleticism.

The Titans are undersized with no starter over 6'7 but they are extremely athletic with skilled players at every position.

CS Fullerton is averaging 90.0 points a game while shooting 47.7% from the field including 35.2% from three-point distance.  With their pressure defense they are forcing 7.5 steals a game, however, they turnover the ball often themselves averaging 17.0 a game.

After playing against UC Riverside at a snails pace, some UCLA players were looking forward to playing faster paced games later in the schedule.  With CS Fullerton the Bruins will get their wish.

"I've known most of those guys for awhile." UCLA guard Arron Afflalo said. "We are very familiar with each other.  They have a lot of aggressive players."

All-Big West point-guard Bobby Brown (Sr, 6'1 175) out of Westchester HS returned to the Titans after considering an early entrance into the NBA draft last season.  Brown is a dynamic scorer who is attempting to round out his game this season by applying himself on the defensive end and looking to be more of a play-maker on offense.

Brown missed the Titan's first three games of the season due to injury but has played well since his return scoring over 20 points in his last two games including 4 of 7 from beyond the arc.  He is also averaging 4.0 assists and 1.7 steals.

Darren Collison and Bobby Brown promise to be the marquee match-up of the game as two of the quickest players in Division I clash, although considering the Titans use three guards in the backcourt we'll see Afflalo on Brown at times. 

UCLA Coach Ben Howland considers Collison to be one of the finest on-ball defenders he's ever coached, in addition, he credits his low turnovers total to the team's early success.   Collison will be pressured all game by the Titan defense, but he should be able to handle the full-court pressure as he did against Kentucky and Georgia Tech.

Ray Reed (Jr, 5'11, 165) is a shooter in a point-guard sized body. While Brown was injured Reed was leading the Titans in scoring.  He is averaging 14.8 points and 4.2 assists while shooting at a 46% clip from beyond the arc.  He's gutty and quick, a good fit for the team's pressuring defense.  This season Reed is averaging an astonishing 3.0 steals a game.

At the third starting guard spot is Frank Robinson (Jr, 6'4, 220) who is averaging 13.3 points and 5.7 rebounds a game.  He is a dangerous perimeter threat averaging over 41% from three-point distance. 

Josh Shipp will need to make sure he closes out quickly on Robinson on the perimeter.  Three-point defense has been a weakness for the entire Bruin squad.  This season they are allowing 41% field goal percentage from three-point distance which is bad enough for last place in the Pac-10.

"We are not as good a defensive team this year." Howland said at his weekly press conference. "If we allow CS Fullerton to shoot over 40% from three then we have a chance of losing tomorrow."

Along the Titan front line is forward Scott Cutley, a burly 6'5 and 240 lb transfer from Kent St.  The junior leads the team in scoring (20.7) and is second in rebounding (8.0).  He is a blue-collar worker around the boards and is strong enough to push defenders around for scores.  In a recent Say No Classic summer game Cutley scored 49 points.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute saw plenty of Cutley during the summer league and will be tasked to slow him down on Tuesday.  Mbah a Moute has been solid this season recording his second double-double of the season against UC Riverside, however, he has been getting into early foul trouble this season in most cases by being too aggressive and going over the back of opponents.

At the other forward spot is Justin Burns (Sr, 6'7, 205) who is averaging 13.2 points and leads the team in rebounding with 9.0 a game.  A very athletic player who attempts to use his speed to compensate for his lack of size inside. 

UCLA's center Lorenzo Mata tied a career-high with four blocks against UC Riverside and has been improving his offense inside since his return from knee surgery.  He was 4 of 4 from the field scoring 10 points on Sunday.

Although CS Fullerton plays an up-tempo game the Titans rely on heavy minutes from their starters.  Bobby Brown and Scott Cutley each average 36 minutes a contest while Ray Reed and Justin Burns go 32 minutes a game.

Off the bench the Titans have some size to bring into the game with Chris Minardo (So, 6'10, 205), Jarrel Lake (Fr, 6'7, 230), and Ken Alexander (Jr, 6'6, 230).  In the backcourt they may struggle with depth issues since back-up guard Marcus Crenshaw (So, 5'10, 170) is questionable due to an ankle injury.  Crenshaw had been the first Titan off the bench and was averaging 12.7 points and 3.7 assists a game.

No doubt the game will be a high scoring affair.  UCLA will be able to run with CS Fullerton all game, but the question will be if the Bruins can get back to playing their solid brand of defense to keep this from being a close contest. 

BBR Notes: Former Washington St. guard Josh Akognon transferred to CS Fullerton this season and is sitting out the year per transfer rules.  Akognon lit up the Bruins for 25 points in a game last January.

UCLA Assistant Coach Donny Daniels played under former head coach Bobby Dye at CS Fullerton from 1974 to 1977.  Daniels later returned to his alma mater to become head coach from 2000 to 2003.

UCLA forward Josh Shipp was named Pac-10 Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Week for November 27-December 3.  Teammate Darren Collison received the honor the previous week.

(photo credit: CS Fullerton Athletics)



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