Tuesday, January 16, 2007

UCLA vs. Arizona State - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

UCLA will host the Arizona State Sun Devils (6-11, 0-6) in a Thursday night contest.  UCLA returns home to Pauley Pavilion after playing three straight games on the road. 

The Bruins (15-1, 4-1) are coming off a stunning one-point victory over crosstown rival USC on Saturday.  Arron Afflalo hit a jumper with 4.7 seconds remaining for the game-winner.

Arizona State Head Coach Herb Sendek was hired this summer to lead the Sun Devils on the bench after spending ten years at North Carolina State.  He is an excellent coach and is well-respected by his peers. 

"A steal. It's a complete steal for Arizona State," Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg said. "I'm sitting in these league meetings with Roy Williams and Mike Kryzewski and [Sendek} is by far the brightest guy in the room.  He always sees things from a unique angle, an intelligent light."

So while it appears the Sun Devils are in good shape at the top, the same can't be said of their current basketball roster.

After finishing 11-17, 5-13 last season with no senior starters, Arizona State fans were looking forward to big improvements with a more experienced team - except it hasn't work out that way.

When former Sun Devil coach Rob Evans was replaced by Sendek, Kevin Kruger, the team's leading scorer, took advantage of a new NCAA rule and transferred to UNLV, to play for his father Lon. Later in August, another top player, Bryson Krueger, was dismissed from the team for an off the court incident.

Fortunately for Sendek he has help coming next season when high school stud James Harden and Duke-transfer Eric Boateng join the team.  In the meantime, the Sun Devils are struggling and will have difficulty getting even a single conference victory in the tough Pac-10 this season.

While Arizona State is giving up just 63.9 points per game, fourth lowest in school history, they are scoring just 62.5 points.  The Sun Devils are shooting only 42.8% from the field, and aren't getting it done at the free-throw line either at 63.7%.

Sendek runs a variation of the Princeton offense which stresses ball control and motion.  But the team is still learning the new offensive system and perhaps lack the right personnel to run it effectively at this point.  Although the offense should result in low turnover totals and high percentage three-point opportunities, the Sun Devils commit 15.3 turnovers a game (9th in Pac-10) and shoot just 30.7% from three-point distance (9th in Pac-10). 

With all the changes in the roster, four true freshmen are combining to average 87.1 minutes, including three who play more than 25-minutes a contest.  As a result of depth issues on the team, the Sun Devils have played primarily a seven-player rotation in conference games.

Jeff Pendergraph (So, 6'10, 210) is the top returning player.  He is averaging 13.4 points and 9.3 rebounds a game, including seven double-doubles.  Over his last four games, he is shooting an astounding 31 of 38 for 81.6%.

A former Etiwanda HS star and teammate of UCLA's Darren Collison, Pendergraph is a long and agile post player.  He has an excellent inside game and effective mid-range jumper.  Last season, he started off well in two games against UCLA but then was saddled on the bench for most of the game with foul trouble.

"Outside of Jeff Pendergraph, we continue to have a hard time doing what Dr. Naismith intended and that's put the ball in the basket," Sendek said. "As a result, our defense has little to no margin for error."

Last season Angounou played around the basket and bullied his way to the rim.  This season he has transformed himself into a perimeter player who takes half his shot from three-point distance. 

Angounou is the team's top three-pointer threat at 41% from beyond the arc while shooting 43.6% from the field.  The fact the Sun Devils' best three-point threat is their power forward gives an indication of the state of the team.

Both Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Alfred Aboya struggled defending Angounou in Tempe who seemed intent in putting the younger Cameroonians in their place.  The elder Angounou will be hard pressed to repeat his performance this year against the Bruin duo.

Antwi Atuahene (Jr, 6'4, 205), a returning letterman, is averaging 8.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.3 assists.  He is quick and is a good penetrator off the dribble, but Atuahene struggles from the perimeter shooting just 26.3% from three point distance.  Atuahene is a very solid defender.

Christian Polk (6'3, 175) is one of the team's freshmen playing major minutes this year.  He is averaging 12.9 points on just 37.9% shooting including 31.9% from beyond the arc. He is a gutsy young player who isn't afraid of stepping up and making big plays as he did by hitting two last second three-point shots to send the games into overtime.

Derek Glasser (Fr, 6'2, 180) had verbally committed to play at USC but then changed his mind and signed with Arizona State.  He has done a good job handling the ball for the Sun Devils recording a 2.23 assist-to-turnover ratio, but he has struggled from the field averaging 5.2 points on just 30% field goal shooting.

Sendek has been using a seven player rotation and returning sophomore Sylvester Seay (6'9, 232) has not been a part of it.  Seay has only played two minutes in the last five games.

Freshman Jerren Shipp (Fr, 6'4, 200), brother of Josh, is averaging 7.5 points and 3.4 rebounds.  He has scored in double-figures five times already including a 23 point performance against Northern Arizona.  Jerren is not the tough, physical player that brothers Josh and Joe are, instead he prefers to stay on the perimeter.  The other reserve off the bench is senior Allen Morill (6'7, 232) who is averaging 2.4 points.

The only question about Thursday's game against Arizona State is the Bruin's margin of victory.  With the Arizona Wildcat game looming on Saturday, UCLA players need to guard from looking past this game, and making this home game more difficult than it needs to be.

BBR Notes:  UCLA Coach Ben Howland spoke to Bill McCabe, the Pac-10 coordinator of officiating, about the USC's tactic of intentionally fouling Lorenzo Mata off the ball in the closing minutes of the game.  At minimum, Howland is planting the seeds into officials' minds that team's are trying to take advantage of Mata's woes from the free-throw line.



At Jan 17, 2007, 8:03:00 AM, Anonymous Bob said...

I might be misremembering, but didn't the fouling of Mata backfire on another team earlier this year (Texas A & M, I think)? They fouled him off the ball in the final 2 minutes and the rule was that Afflalo could shoot for him. Why didn't that apply against USC? Are Pac-10 rules different?

At Jan 17, 2007, 2:59:00 PM, Anonymous JS said...

Great preview and to the point!
Go Bruins!

At Jan 17, 2007, 3:31:00 PM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

Don't recall the Texas A&M incident perhaps someone else can comment.
Refs are reluctant to call the off-the-ball intentional-foul rule especially late in the game and if the defending player "masks" his attempts well.
However, Howland is wise to bring this tactic to the attention of the league officiating director and the media. Refs will now have added pressure on them to make the call since this issue has been brought to the forefront.

At Jan 17, 2007, 7:07:00 PM, Anonymous Patrick said...

nice preview, go blueandgold.


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