UCLA vs. Davidson - Game Preview
By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report
UCLA (7-1) plays in the 14th annual John R. Wooden Classic on Saturday, December 8, at the Honda Center in Anaheim. The Bruins will face the Wildcats of Davidson (3-4).
It will be UCLA’s fifth consecutive appearance in the Wooden Classic (11th overall), with a record of 7-3 in prior contests. Last year the team defeated Texas A&M, 65-62, in the tournament.
The Bruins are probably not a team anyone wants to face this week. After losing their first game of the season to Texas and subsequent No.1 ranking, UCLA is looking to rebound strong against their next opponent.
Davidson makes their first appearance in the Wooden Classic. The Wildcats are returning 11 letter winners and all five starters from last year’s club that won its second straight Southern Conference Tournament. Davidson has appeared in the last two NCAA Tournaments. The team posted its third straight 20-win season last year, breaking a school record with 29 wins.
The Wildcats are coming off a tough loss against Charlotte on Wednesday, 75-68. Although Davidson out-boarded Charlotte 47-33, the team shot horridly hitting on just 36.7% from the field and an anemic 10-34 (29.4%) on three-pointers in the loss.
In two earlier marquee games this season, Davidson battled North Carolina and Duke each down to the wire before losing to the Tar Heels by just four points and to the Blue Devils by six.
Davidson is averaging 84.3 points a game on 44.4% shooting. They shoot a lot from beyond the arc, 45% of their shot attempts are three-pointers, but the Wildcats have not shot them for a high percentage this season (33%).
Using primarily a three-guard alignment, they take good care of the ball averaging just 12.2 turnovers a game and are fourth in Division I in assists with 20.3 a game.
On defense, the Wildcats will switch between man and zone defense. Considering how the Bruins struggled against Texas's zone last week, UCLA should expect to see a lot of zone defense from Davidson, or at least until the Bruins can demonstrate they can attack and score consistently against one.
Davidson is led by preseason All-American sophomore guard Stephen Curry (6'0, 180), son of former NBA player Dell Curry. He has been hampered all year by a torn ligament in his left wrist which will require offseason surgery.
Curry is averaging 26.0 points, 5th highest in the nation, on 49.2% shooting including 44.5% from beyond the arc. He takes many shots which initially seem ill-advised only to have most of them sail through the basket. An excellent foul shooter, like his father, Stephen Curry shoots 90.9% from the line.
UCLA's Russell Westbrook will get the initial assignment against Curry. Westbrook is a much improved defender this season, he held Texas's A.J. Abrams to just six points last Sunday.
On offense, Westbrook will look to improve his shooting numbers on Saturday. Against Texas the sophomore guard scored just six points on six shot attempts. The Bruins need Westbrook to attack the zone of the dribble and to be effective from the outside. Against the Longhorns, he was just 1-3 from three-point distance.
At another guard spot, the Wildcats start senior playmaker Jason Richards (6'2, 190). He is averaging 11.6 points and an impressive 9.4 assists a game. While he has been effective in setting up opponents, Richards has struggled with his own shot, shooting just 40% from the field and 28.2% from three-point distance. In the loss to Charlotte, Richards went 0-6 on three-pointers.
Junior guard Darren Collison will draw the assignment against Richards and will need to focus on keeping him out the paint and from setting the table for his teammates.
The third starting guard is Max Paulhus Gosselin (6'6, 195, Jr), a tough and active player who doesn't make a lot of mistakes and does a lot of the dirty work for the team. He is averaging just 2.6 points a contest. Josh Shipp will match-up against Gosselin.
Upfront Davidson has two 6'8 experienced starters in Thomas Sander (6'8, 220, Sr) and Boris Meno (6'8, 220, Sr). Sander is averaging 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds a game while Meno averages 8.9 points and 8.4 rebounds. Combined with the zone defense, Davidson seems to have the experienced big men who can give UCLA's freshman center Kevin Love some trouble underneath.
All week at practices, UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland has been stressing the need for his players to pass the ball into the post to Love, and for Love to move around in the zone to areas such as the high post and perimeter to make plays for the Bruins. Love has only a combined ten field goal attempts in his last two games.
Off the bench the Wildcats have three-point specialist Bryant Barr (6'4,185, Jr) and Andrew Lovedale (6'8, 215, Jr) who gives them more size along the front line.
While Davidson will be a tough challenge for UCLA, the Bruins should be able to pull away in this game. However, it will be particularly interesting to watch how the Bruins attack the zone defense and how much intensity they start the game with against Davidson.
Place: Honda Center
Time: 2:30PM PT
TV: KCAL, WGN (nationally)
Radio: AM 570
BBR Notes: The last time these two teams took to the court was in 1975 when UCLA beat Davidson 91-64 at Paley Pavilion, the same season Coach Wooden retired.
Arizona basketball coach Lute Olson said Thursday night he would extend his leave of absence through the end of this season, citing undisclosed family matters that require his attention.
Labels: Game Previews