Thursday, December 14, 2006

UCLA vs. Oakland - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

After a very busy week of taking finals the Bruins return to action against the Oakland Golden Grizzlies of Michigan at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday.

UCLA hasn't played since their victory over highly-ranked Texas A&M at the Wooden Classic. In addition, as a result of finals week, the team did not have a regular practice until Thursday.

Oakland (6-6) is coming off two big losses to Miami (OH), 72-46, last Sunday and to Arkansas on Thursday, 91-57. 

As they have done for the past few years, the Grizzlies play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation.  In addition to playing UCLA on Saturday, the Grizzlies have played Pittsburgh and Cincinnati earlier in the season and will travel next week to play No.22 Marquette before opening conference play.

Last season, the Golden Grizzlies under Head Coach Greg Kampe suffered one of the school's worst seasons finishing 11-18 overall and 6-10 in conference play.

The Grizzlies return three seniors to the starting line-up and they will be looked upon to provide leadership and a bulk of the offense.  Unfortunately for Oakland, they lost their best offensive player, guard Calvin Wooten, to academic ineligibility before the season.  Without Wooten the Grizzlies have been hard pressed to find enough offense.

As a result of their lack of fire power, Coach Kampe put a lot of emphasis during the preseason to play more solid team defense, and especially to improve their three-point defense - and its paid off in games.  While last season opponents averaged 77.3 points a game and shot over 45% from beyond the arc, this season the Grizzlies are limiting teams to just 60.9 points and 31% from three-point distance and 42% FG% overall.

The Grizzlies have depth on the roster and usually play nine to ten players each game.

Oakland's leading scorer is Vova Severovas (Sr, 6'6,, 225).  The forward from Lithuania transfered to the program from Wright St. last season.  He is averaging 13.3 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting an efficient 51% from the field.  He is a slashing type player with a solid mid-range game.  He tends to be too unselfish at times and the coaches are urging him to take more charge on the offensive end and to shoot more.

Severovas will be matched up against UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.  Mbah a Moute has been suffering from a groin pull injury and his status is unknown at this time; however, its highly doubtful he will log 35 minutes against Oakland as he did on Saturday against Texas A&M.

At the other front court spot for Oakland is big Shawn Hopes.  The senior is listed at 6'7 275 but carries more weight at this point.  Last season Hopes fought a difficult weight problem playing most of the season at 340 lbs.  Coach Kampe wanted him to get below 300 before the start of this season.  Hopes is averaging 11.7 points and 4.5 rebounds in 24.3 minutes a contest.

More was expected offensively from senior guard Rick Billings (6'4, 220) but he is struggling from the field shooting only 33%.  He is averaging 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds a game. 

Sophomore Eric Kangas (6'3, 195) has been a pleasant surprise for the Grizzlies.  Not expected to log many minutes before the season, Kangas is playing 27.6 minutes a game and is the team's third-leading scorer at 10.3 points a game.  He is also the team's best three-point shooter averaging an astounding 49.2% from beyond the arc.  Although, its doubtful Kangas will be shooting anywhere near that level against the Bruins especially with UCLA's Arron Afflalo hounding him.

At point-guard for Oakland is Johnathan Jones (Fr, 6'0, 160).  Jones was a McDonald's All-American nominee last year.  He is averaging 9.2 points but just 2.3 assists a game. He hasn't been taking care of the ball averaging almost four turnovers a game including six against Arkansas.

Off the bench the Grizzlies can bring size along the front line and players who can play both guard positions. 

Derrick Nelson (So, 6'5, 215) is the first player off the bench and is averaging 7.0 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.  Against Arkansas he scored 16 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.

Forwards Patrick McCloskey (Jr, 6'8, 225) and F/C Shane Lawal (So, 6'10, 205) , guard Brandon Cassise (Jr, 6'3, 195) will also see significant minutes on Saturday.

This game should provide UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland the opportunity to give more minutes to players on the bench, especially James Keefe, Russell Westbrook, and Ryan Wright.  With Pac-10 conference play starting in less than two weeks, the experience for the younger players on the team would be invaluable.

(photo credit: Oakland (MI) Athletics)



At Dec 14, 2006, 11:08:00 PM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

Another cupcake. I hope we don't play like we did against UC Irvine or Cal State Fullerton.
Mr. Collison,you better decrease your recent number of turnovers. Prediction: UCLA will be undefeated in 2006!!
Oh yeah, everyone should go to Pauley Pavillion tonight (Friday) to see Kevin Love.


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