Tuesday, January 30, 2007

UCLA vs. Oregon - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.5 UCLA Bruins host the No.9 Oregon Ducks in a battle between two first-place Pac-10 heavyweights at Pauley Pavilion Thursday night.  The Bruins return home after splitting a pair of road games in the Bay area last week.

Oregon (19-2, 7-2) lost to Washington last week but was playing without starting point-guard Aaron Brooks who was serving the last of a two-game suspension he was levied when he struck Washington's Ryan Appleby last season in the Pac-10 tournament.

On Saturday the Ducks defeated No.18 Washington State in Pullman, 77-74.  Brooks scored 31 points against the Cougars in his return to the line-up.

In the first match-up at Eugene, UCLA suffered its first loss of the season when senior point-guard Aaron Brooks scored 25 points including the game-winner with only thirteen seconds remaining in the game to lead Oregon to an upset win over then top-ranked UCLA, 68-66.

In the game, the Ducks utilized an aggressive match-up zone limiting the Bruins to just 36% shooting in the first-half.   The Bruin offense struggled attacking the zone while committing 17 turnovers in the game.

Oregon Probable Starters

Aaron BrooksG6'0165Sr.1936.619.14.14.5
Bryce TaylorG6'5205Jr.2133.515.85.12.0
Tajuan PorterG5'6160Fr.1930.413.11.52.5
Malik HairstonG6'6200Jr.1129.913.06.12.4
Maarty LeunenF6'9215Jr.2133.

In the first game, junior Malik Hairston, one of Oregon's best players, did not play due to injury but has since come back to make Oregon an even more dangerous club with his rebounding, especially on the offensive end, and tenacity.  Hairston has scored in double-figures in five of his last six games since returning to the line-up.

UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is still recovering from the effects of a strained knee and will have his job cut out trying to guard and block out the athletic Hairston. 

After the last game in Oregon, UCLA Coach Ben Howland stated he wished that he had guarded Aaron Brooks more with Arron Afflalo.  Although both Afflalo and Collison will likely see time against Brooks on Thursday night, it will be Afflalo's primary responsibility to slow down the speedy Oregon point-guard who is a legitimate Pac-10 player of the year candidate.

Maarty Leunen hurt the Bruins with 18 and 7 rebounds especially on high pick-in-rolls where the Bruin centers, specifically Lorenzo Mata, were too slow in recovering to guard Leunen who hit from three-point distance as well as taking it inside to the Bruin big men.

Both Bryce Taylor and Tajuan Porter were also effective the last time around, scoring 11 and 9 points respectively against the Bruins.

In order for UCLA (18-2, 7-2) to win against Oregon on Thursday, they will need to solve the Duck's match-up zone by attacking it aggressively by quickly hitting the gaps and seams of the zone.

UCLA has utilized a four-guard alignment in recent games to combat zone defenses to varying degrees of success.  Against the Ducks, the Bruin strategy will meet its biggest challenge since Oregon has extremely quick and athletic players and play one of the best zone defenses in the nation.

Defensively, the Bruins will need to do a much better job in stopping dribble-penetration by the Ducks.  Aaron Brooks, as well as Bryce Taylor,  sliced through the UCLA perimeter defense at will in the January 5th contest, creating easy offensive opportunities.

1/5/2007: UCLA vs. Oregon - Game Preview
1/6/2007: UCLA Falls From Unbeaten, Lose To Oregon

(photo credit Oregon Athletics)



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