Friday, December 29, 2006

UCLA vs. Washington - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

Top-ranked UCLA hosts the No. 13 ranked Washington Huskies in a New Year's Eve game at Pauley Pavilion.

On Thursday night UCLA (12-0) earned a hard-fought victory over an incredibly tough WSU Cougars team, 55-52.  Darren Collison scored all of his team-high 13 points during a Bruin second-half rally for the win. 

Across town at the Galen Center, Washington went into double-overtime against USC before losing 86-79.  The Huskies were foul-plagued committing 30 personal fouls while sending the Trojans to the free-throw line 39 times.  Four Washington players fouled out by games end.

The Huskies are 10-2 with both of their losses coming on their only two road games this season.

Washington lost Brandon Roy, one of the nation's top players, to graduation and return a very young squad for the 2006-07 season.  The Huskies start two sophomores and three freshmen. 

With such a young team the Huskies are expected to be inconsistent during the early course of the season - as evidenced by their loss to USC, but by season's end if they continue to mature the Huskies have a chance to go deep into the tournament.

Huskies' Head Coach Lorenzo Romar coaches his teams to run the court and score in transition whenever possible.  Washington is the top scoring team in the conference and 4th overall in the nation with a 88.9 point average.  Alternatively, they also give up a lot of points with opponents averaging 76.8 points a contest due to the uptempo pace of the game.

UCLA needs to play solid transition defense to slow down Washington's running game.  Although the Bruins like to run and will need some easy baskets in transition, they will not win the game if they get into a track meet with the Huskies.

While the Huskies enjoy playing transition basketball, this season they are also dangerous on the halfcourt in the low-post as they sport one of the nation's best frontcourt tandem in Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes.

UCLA Coach Ben Howland will usually have his team double-down on quality low-post players, but Washington has two big men who can both score, in addition, Hawes has shown to be an adept passer.  Subsequently, the UCLA defense will need to be quick and very aggressive on their double teams and defensive rotations; otherwise, Hawes and Brockman will have a field day picking which shooters to pass out to.

#40 Jon Brockman (So, 6'7, 245), who plays as wide as he is tall, is averaging a double-double this season - 12.1 points and 10.2 rebounds while shooting 53% from the floor.  The sophomore possesses a strong inside game and is near impossible to knock off the block.  Brockman also complements the Huskies' transition game as he runs the floor very well.

In what will be a spotlight match-up as long as these two players remain collegiates together, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Brockman will square off.  Mbah a Moute has enjoyed his two finest defensive performances over the last two games and will need to be in top form against Brockman. 

Mbah a Moute and the rest of the Bruins will need to be active on the boards as Washington is a very good rebounding team, out-boarding  opponents by a 12.9 margin per game.

#10 Spencer Hawes was the No.2 top center high school prospect in the nation last year.  With high expectations abound with those type of credentials, Hawes has not disappointed so far.  The 6'11 225 lb center is leading the team in scoring at 16.2 points a game while shooting an astounding 62.1% from the field.  He has already scored more than 20 points five times this season.

The freshman center  has an outstanding offensive-repertoire.  Hawes can score with his back to the basket using his ambidextrous skills to score around or over defenders.  He can also step out and hit consistently from midrange.  Coach Romar has so much confidence in his shooting touch that he chose Hawes take a three-point shot with one second remaining to send the USC game into a second overtime.

Hawes patrols the paint well leading the team in blocked shot with 2.4 a game.  As a young player he needs to bulk up his body and can still improve on his rebounding and low-post defense at this point.

Lorenzo Mata will have his hands full against Hawes and will need to body up and be physical with the freshman to keep him away from the basket in order to allow time for the UCLA double-team to form.

At the small forward spot is ultra-athletic freshman #24 Quincy Pondexter (6'7, 220).  He is second on the team in scoring with a 14.2 average while shooting 51% from the field including 44% from three-point distance.

Although Pondexter has shot well from the perimeter, his big-time talent is slashing into the paint and scoring around the basket.  He's also aggressive on the boards, especially on the offensive end, averaging 5.3 rebounds a game.

Arron Afflalo, who will likely get the assignment, needs to pressure the freshman and keep the ball out of his hands.  When Pondexter does get the ball, Afflalo needs to keep him out of the paint and force him to shoot from the perimeter.  In addition, Afflalo has averaged only 1.6 rebounds a game and against Pondexter he will need to do a much better job on the boards

Freshman #2 Adrian Oliver (6'3, 180) has been starting at the two-guard for the Huskies.  He is averaging 6.1 points and 2.5 assists a game, but his contributions to the team don't show up in the stat book.

Oliver is a tough all-around player who makes all his teammates around him better with his hustle and savvy play on the court.   He has the combo-skills to play both guards spots at this level.

At point guard is sophomore #5 Justin Dentmon (5'10, 180) who has continued his solid play from his All-Freshmen Pac-10 season and is the key to the Huskies' running game  He is averaging 11.7 points and 4.8 assists a game. 

Dentmon still needs to improve his perimeter shot averaging 44% from the field 30% from beyond the arc, but his effectiveness comes from the ability to run the offense in transition and dribble-penetrate in the half-court. 

Darren Collison needs to put a lot of pressure on Dentmon defensively while preventing him from getting into the paint. Against Washington St., Collison and Afflalo had problems stopping Derrick Low's dribble-penetration but they still won the game since the Cougars lacked other scorers -- the Huskies have plenty of offensive weapons.

The Huskies have some depth on the bench.  The first player off the bench is veteran guard #20 Ryan Appleby (6'2, 170).  The floppy hair junior is a streaky shooter who can light it up from beyond the arc.  This season he is shooting 42% on three-pointers.

#22 Hans Gasser (Sr, 6'9, 230) backs up Brockman at forward.  He is the only scholarship-senior on the team. Gasser can play both inside and on the perimeter and is averaging 4.8 points on 45% shooting.

#44 Phil Nelson (Fr, 6'8, 220) has an excellent outside shooting stroke,  Although he has been inconsistent this season with his shot (41% from the field and 28% 3PT), with more seasoning Nelson will be a player to contend with down the line. 

#11 Brandon Burmeister (6'4, 190), a walk-on senior guard, has averaged 4.6 points in 11.5 minutes a game and gives the team some veteran presence on the floor.

The Bruins are a battle-tested team who know how to win close games.  Despite having a young squad and losing a tough game on Thursday, the Washington Huskies provide the Bruins with perhaps their toughest challenge of the season on Sunday.

(photo credit: UW Athletic Dept)



At Dec 31, 2006, 2:25:00 AM, Anonymous JonB said...

Great preview. I'm ready for this game. Let's Go Bruins!


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