UCLA vs. Stanford - Game Preview
By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report
No. 5 ranked UCLA opens Pac-10 conference action on the road against No.20/24 ranked Stanford at Maples Pavilion on Thursday night.
The Bruins (12-1) finished their non-conference portion of the schedule with an easy victory over UC Davis last Saturday, 76-48. Kevin Love scored 13 points and grabbed 9 rebounds against the overmatched Aggies.
Love is leading the team in scoring and rebounds averaging a double-double, 16.4 points and 10.2 rebounds a game. The freshman center is shooting 57.8% from the field. Love has made a living at the free throw line making 75 of 97 (77.3%). To put it into perspective, his 75 "made" free throws are more than any other Pac-10 player has even "attempted" from the line this season.
Senior center Lorenzo Mata-Real is scheduled to return to uniform against Stanford, he sat out the UC Davis game due to a strained groin muscle.
With the foot injury to Michael Roll, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will likely play additional minutes on the wing out of necessity. Mbah a Moute had been playing his best basketball of the season since moving to the power forward spot six games ago in which he's averaged 12.5 points and 7.2 rebounds.
Although at least for this road trip, the Bruins could use the additional size and bulk along the front line since they will face a severe test on Thursday against Stanford's formidable front line of twin 7-footers, Robin and Brook Lopez, and 6'8 Lawrence Hill.
The Stanford Cardinal (11-1) are expected to challenge for the Pac-10 title this season. They return all five starters and key bench players from last year's 18-13 club which split the two conference games with the Bruins, with each team winning on their own home floor.
Stanford has not really been tested yet as they have not faced a ranked team so far this season. Their toughest game was an away game against Texas Tech team with the Cardinal pulling out a 62-61 victory. Their lone blemish of the season was an embarrassing upset loss to unheralded Siena, 79-67, however, Stanford was without sophomore standout Brook Lopez for the game.
Regardless, Stanford has completely outclassed its early season opponents. They are averaging 75.0 points a contest while shooting 48.8% from the field and 39.1% from beyond the arc. On the defensive end, the Cardinal is holding opponents to just 56.1 points a game and 38.8% from the field.
With their big front line Stanford is outrebounding opponents by an astounding 11.2 a game, as well as dominating on the offensive boards by grabbing 12.5 off the offensive glass. The Bruins will need to control, or at least match Stanford's effort on the boards.
Last season, Stanford was successful in spreading their offensive sets against UCLA and taking them off the dribble thereby negating the Bruins' help defense. It was effective in the second-half of the first game in which Stanford rallied to defeat UCLA, however, it was not effective in the rematch in Pauley, mainly due to the fact guard Anthony Goods was injured and did not play in the game.
Goods (6'3,205,Jr) is the team's best perimeter offensive player. He shoots well from outside and can take the ball effectively to the basket off the bounce. He is averaging 12.8 points while shooting 44.3% from the field and 40.8% from beyond the arc.
UCLA's Russell Westbrook will have the big task of stopping Goods. He must stay in front of Goods and prevent him from getting into the paint and creating offense for his team. If Goods is able to penetrate and breakdown the defense, it may be a long game for the Bruins.
While Goods is a solid guard, Stanford's team is built around its massive front line.
Brook Lopez (7'0, 260, So) seriously considered leaving for the NBA after his freshman year but decided to spend another year to refine his game in Palo Alto. However in a bizarre start to this season, he was ruled ineligible due to academic reasons. Since his return to the team three games ago, he has averaged 19.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.
In last season's game at Pauley, Brook Lopez recorded 23 points and 9 rebounds against the Bruins. He is a very active player who is difficult to stop once he gets underneath and has a solid midrange shot.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will get the initial assignment against Brook Lopez, although it wouldn't be surprising if the Bruins went bigger for parts of the game by using a tandem combination of Love, Mata-Real, or Aboya. They'll need to keep Brook Lopez off the offensive boards which accounts for more than 45% of his total rebounds.
Brook's brother, Robin Lopez (7'0, 255, So) is primarily a low post player who is a solid rebounder, and like Brook, a good shot blocker. He is averaging 10.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks a game.
In an anticipated match-up, Kevin Love will get his first taste of the Lopez brothers in a collegiate game. Like the Lopez brothers, Love has been a dominating force in just his freshman season. He has struggled so far this year scoring against bigger, athletic players, it will be interesting how Love fares in this contest against two 7-footers, much less one. Both Lopez brothers are prone to foul trouble and Love perhaps can use his guile and solid low-post skills to cause problems for them underneath.
At small forward Stanford starts Lawrence Hill (6'8,215,Jr). An all-Pac-10 player, Hill has struggled out of the gate this season. Normally a good perimeter shooter, he is averaging just 9.8 points on 44.1% shooting and just 28.1% from beyond the arc.
Josh Shipp will be matched up against the taller Hill to begin the game. For whatever reason, Hill typically plays well against the Bruins, he averaged 19 points a game in the two games against UCLA last season.
At point guard, Stanford starts Mitch Johnson (6'1,190,Jr). He's averaging 6.7 points and 4.8 assists a game. He is a good ballhandler but not very quick. UCLA's Darren Colllison will be playing without his knee brace for the first time since returning to the line-up. He'll need to pick-up Johnson early and pressure him to help keep Stanford from getting into its sets or getting the ball inside to the Lopez twins.
Off the bench, Stanford has experienced players in Taj Fingers (6'8,200,Sr), Fred Washington (6'5,215,Sr), Landry Fields (6'7,200,So) who have all started some games for the team over the past two seasons. Both Fingers and Washington give the team energy and defensive presence off the bench and Fields can light it up from outside if he get's it going.
While there are no easy games in the Pac-10, playing Stanford in Maples Pavilion probably ranks as one of the toughest games UCLA will play this season. Stanford has an experienced team and perhaps sports one of the top front lines in the nation.
The Bruins will need to play one of their best game of the season tonight in a hostile environment. They'll need to control the boards and come out and maintain a high level of defensive intensity and pressure the ball for a full 40 minutes if they expect to come away with a victory.
BBR Notes: The team is awaiting news on the results of the MRI on Michael Roll's injured left foot. Coach Ben Howland was scheduled to speak to James Keefe and his family regarding his redshirt status for this season. There is a possibility Keefe may give up his redshirt and play for the team during the weekend series. He has been practicing with the team in full contact drills since December 4.
UCLA vs Stanford
Date: Jan. 3
Time: 7:30 PM PT
Place: Palo Alto
TV: FSN/FSN Prime
Radio: AM 570
(photo credit: Stanford Athletics)
Labels: Game Previews