Thursday, December 06, 2007

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.

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20 Comments:

At Dec 6, 2007, 10:08:00 PM, Anonymous John in Raleigh said...

Great preview. Good luck Saturday - the Wildcats should be coming in desperate for a big win. I hope it's a good game, and I of course hope DC comes out on top.
By the way, where can I sign up for a left wrist injury that hampers me into 44% three point shooting and 26pts a game?
:-)

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 12:21:00 AM, Anonymous BruinBlue said...

Curry is the real deal on offense but Russell is our best defender at the two. What a great matchup!

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 1:23:00 AM, Anonymous Bare Gunner said...

It should be BruinBlue. See my comments below:
This game against Davidson will be another good test for Westbrook. He may have done a great job shutting down Abrams from Texas, but Davidson's Curry is going to try to light it up.
Keep in mind Davidson only lost to North Carolina by 4 pts and Duke by 6pts so we know they are not to be taken lightly.
Curry had 24 and 20 pts respectively so we need to keep a body on him at all times. But we can't foul him because he never misses a free throw. He is prone to foul himself so whichever Bruin guard he covers needs to take him to the hoop!
I can't say I am expecting a blow out like some other posts, but if we are suppose to be at the same level as UNC and Duke, then Davidson is going to be a good game to gauge!
I'm still not convinced at how the Bruins have handled high scoring, highly-touted guards the last couple of years. Neitzel/Michigan State may have been sick as a dog against us, but he still knocked down 13 points. Maryland's guard (Vasquez/19 pts) and George Washington's (Rice/11 pts & Beatty/12pts) all had their highest point production against us from their guards.
So if Westbrook only scores 6 points against Davidson but shuts down Curry (say around 10 or 12 pts), I will be more than satisfied!

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 2:05:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not gonna be satisfied unless UCLA wins this game by 15-20 points. If they trail or lose to this team, they are not winning any championships this year because it will show they don't have a will to rebound after a silly loss.
How this team performs against Davidson will tell a lot about their resolve.

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 2:23:00 AM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

Nice. Just imagine what Curry might be shooting with two good wrists? The kid has ice in his veins just like his Dad who had one of the quickest releases.
- BBR

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 3:58:00 AM, Anonymous Rome said...

If Bruins lose this game, it don't mean a thing. I can't stand everyone being so dramatic about these early opponents...wake up and smell the coffee!! These games early in the season are a much bigger deal to the the unranked teams that to the likes of Ben Howland. UCLA know's its good, and when March Madness rolls around, that's when its time to start paying attention. For know, they are just toying around with their opponents, and for good reason. Go Bruins.

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 5:37:00 AM, Anonymous juancarlos said...

Nice try Rome, but Steve Lavin was fired a few years ago. Ben Howland doesn't play that we'll try harder in march game. He likes to win all the time and get a good effort from his team. He knows there is a greater likelihood of success in march for teams with high RPI, seed, and conference championship.

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 5:43:00 AM, Anonymous Rome said...

I'm not saying its important not to win our conference...that's not what I said at all, but we haven't even played one game yet! in our division, and everyone here is panicking like its a do-or-die game. Relax. Grab a chill-pill buddy

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 8:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rome, you seem to be the one that needs to chill out. I think people are expressing valid concerns about things that have been plaguing this team for two years now, namely slow starts and lack of focus and effort in first halves of games. Texas game was lost not because Texas was a great team, but because we mailed in the first half with no effort and no focus and not improvement against the zone.

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 8:22:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

Slow starts, unhealthy team, not gelling yet because of it...we will still end up in the NCAA Championship...I'm not worried either...
We will be fine for this game, especially coming off a loss...

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 8:42:00 AM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

Nice article on Coach Wooden and the Special Olympics on the sidebar of this site. Click on the link to the OC Register for photos and video UCLA Bruin players helping out at the clinic.
- BBR

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 8:43:00 AM, Anonymous Chandler '81 said...

We lost the Texas game because we aren't good enough at getting the ball into the new guy yet. That in turn is probably partly due to some shakiness on the part of Collison in his first start. We will get better and better at getting the ball in to him as the season progresses. Anyone who thinks that a non-conference game before the conference season even starts is some kind of indicator about our prospects in March is an idiot.

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 9:31:00 AM, Anonymous Brew In said...

Hey all you Bruin folk, let's gel and respect what eachother is expressing! From what I can tell, each one of us wants nothing more than a successful year and another banner by the time the season is done. But hey, we are going to lose some games along the way.
If you are really concerned with where we stand, listen to Don McLean's PAC-10 prediction he'll give at the open of conference play. Last year he said "If the Bruins go 15-3 in conference play they'll be just fine." Well he almost hit it dead on as the Bruins went 14-4 in the Pac-10.
Then I recall we did something like make it to the final four after that. And remember, there's no Florida in the way this year!

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 12:23:00 PM, Anonymous WB said...

Feel free to check out the Davidson Basketball Blog.
http://www.davidsonbasketball.blogspot.com/
Looking forward to tomorrow's game. I wish I could attend.

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 1:23:00 PM, Anonymous Help a Bruin!!! said...

This sucks!! I don't have KCAL in San Francisco!! Does anyone know how I can see this game. I appreciate anyone's help.

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 2:28:00 PM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

Help a Bruin,
KCAL is just for local viewers, the game is also being broadcasted nationally on superstation WGN and satellite. If you don't get either, I'm sure a local sports bar can pick it up for you. Good luck.
- BBR

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 3:47:00 PM, Anonymous Help a Bruin!!! said...

BBR: The Good Samaritan. Man, do I love you guys!

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 6:27:00 PM, Anonymous DB said...

HI all go Bruins

 
At Dec 7, 2007, 6:37:00 PM, Anonymous DB said...

Ok in my opinion I think there has been too much emphasis on the Bruins giving up all those points in the first half. That them being down by that many points in the first half cost them the game.
Fact is, yes the Bruins need to start the game stronger, but the game was lost in the last few minutes of the second half. Sure it would have been nice to build a lead in the first half, but ANY coach would love to be up 3-4 points with 1-2 minutes left to play in the game and at home.
The Bruins just did not do a good job closing out the game at the end with a lead. It really has nothing to do with the big deficit in the first half. You just cant expect to blow everyone out nor can you expect to be up every game by halftime. However, when you are up a few points with a minute or so left and at home, you NEED to be able to just take that game.
Great team arent necessary the ones that blow teams out, but the ones who can win close games away or at home.
I think against texas, the Bruins would have been better off going Collison, Russel, Shipp, Mata, and love as their starting 5 and core group. The Bruins got outrebounded and outran. That lineup IMO would have been not only a good zone buster, but also a good man to man matchup, transition, rebound, and defense.

 
At Dec 8, 2007, 12:52:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

UCLA Basketball Viewing Party TODAY....
Join us at Westwood Brew Co., in the heart of Westwood, for the game at 2:15pm today. Feel free to bring people. Ask the bartenders for Ryan.

 

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