Wednesday, January 09, 2008

UCLA vs. Washington - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

After sweeping though the Bay area last week, the No. 5 ranked Bruins (14-1, 2-0) return home to Pauley Pavilion to face the Washington Huskies in a Thursday night event.

Kevin Love shot a total of 12 for 17 from the field and grabbed 21 rebounds in the two games last week.  In addition, his defense has shown marked improvement since the start of the season.

"His defense has improved due to the repetitions in practice," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said of his standout freshman. "He's beginning to take pride in his defense."

The Huskies (9-5, 0-1) are coming off a tough home loss to rival Washington State, 56-52.  Forward Jon Brockman scored 14 points and snared 17 rebounds in the losing effort.

Washington is averaging 76.3 on 47.7% shooting and hitting 40.8% from beyond the arc.  They are struggling from the free throw line, making just 59.5%.  The Huskies typically prefer to score in transition, but in the past Howland's Bruins have been effective in halting the Huskies' running game with solid transition defense.

Coach Lorenzo Romar has tried to emphasize defense with his team this season.  After giving up 91 points in a loss to Syracuse earlier in the season, the Huskies have buckled down, holding opponents to just 56.8 points a game since that game. Washington will likely play a lot of zone defense and make the Bruins prove they can score consistently against it while mixing in some man-to-man for balance.

From last season's club, Washington lost center Spencer Hawes to the NBA draft, and sophomores Adrian Oliver and Phil Nelson who both transferred from the program.  However, the Huskies return a bevy of talented lettermen and welcome some new players who are playing a big role on the team this season. 

Coach Romar has shuffled the line-up all season in search of the right fit, the Huskies have started six different line-ups thus far.  The current five starters are Jon Brocklman, Ryan Appleby, Tim Morris, Artem Wallace, and Joel Smith.

Pac-10 conference star Jon Brockman (6'7, 255, Jr), is as wide as he is tall.  The forward is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds this season.  He is leading the team in scoring at 18.4 game and shooting 54.1% from the field while averaging a conference-leading 11.4 rebounds a game.

The physical forward is a big load in the low post who can knock around opponents on his way to the basket, in addition, he possesses a consistent midrange jumper.  He will initially be guarded by UCLA'a Alfred Aboya although we'll likely see Brockman go head-to-head against Kevin Love in a true battle of the titans underneath.

The Bruins will need to put a body on Brockman to keep the junior off the offensive boards and check him down low with a double in the post often.

Ryan Appleby (6'3, 170, Sr) returned to the team in December after fracturing his thumb during practice.  The senior guard has deadly accuracy and a quick release from three-point distance.  In six games this season, he's averaging 12.0 points and shooting over 51% from beyond the arc. 

Appleby swithches between the point and shooting guard, Justin Dentmon (5'11, 185, Jr) and Venoy Overton (5'11, 180, Fr) come off the bench to back-up at the point. 

Denton is trying comeback from a subpar sophomore season where he was a step too slow against elite point-guards and inconsistent with his jumper.  He lost weight over the offseason in order to improve his quickness.  He's averaging 11.2 points but is still struggling with his shooting, averaging just 42.6% on field goal attempts and 31.1% from three-point distance.  Last season, UCLA's Darren Collison had his way with him by utilizing his quickness and defensive pressure to disrupt Dentmon.

Overton has been a pleasant surprise for the Huskies.  After committing to USC earlier last year, the Washington native decided to stay and play closer to home.  An aggressive and hustling point-guard, he's  averaging 5.2 points and a team-high 3.5 assists a game in 20.6 minutes.

At the shooting guard spot, Stanford-transfer Tim Morris (6'4, 210, Sr) has scored in double figures in every game since he was inserted into the starting line-up last month.    He's a power player who can also hit from the outside, 47.4% on three-pointers and slash to the basket.  He led the Huskies with 16 points in their last game.  Morris may still be playing with a mask to protect a nose he broke two weeks ago in practice.

Russell Westbrook will play against Morris most of the night.  It will be an interesting match-up between two very physical perimeter players.

The Huskies start Joel Smith (6'4, 210, Jr) at one wing spot although sophomore Quincy Pondexter plays the majority of the minutes off the bench at the position.  Smith gives the Huskies a solid defender and a good three-point shooter (53.3%). 

On the other hand, Pondexter has not improved from his freshman year, and some feel he's regressed.  A once-heralded high school player known for his explosiveness, Pondexter has looked lost at times on the court this season and appears to lack confidence in his game.  He's averaging 10.0 points while shooting 45.6% from the field - both figures lower than his freshman season. 

At center Washington will start Artem Wallace (6'8, 250, Jr), a bruising type player who gives the Huskies size along the front line with Brockman.  Wallace is averaging 2.4 points and 2.0 rebounds a game.  He was inserted into the line-up last month to shore up the defensive effort in the paint.

This is not the most talented Washington team in recent years, and this team may find it difficult making its way to the NCAA tournament again this season.  While Brockman provides the Huskies with a dominant presence inside, the perimeter players are solid but not spectacular. 

Coach Romar's emphasis on defensive effort is wise not only considering the physicality of Pac-10 conference teams but also due to lack of talent level on the team.

If the Bruins continue their solid play and improvement from last week, and come out and maintain the intensity in their play, they should win this home game going away.

BBR Notes: Darren Collison, who had food poisoning on Sunday, was able to go through a full practice on Wednesday and will play against the Washington Huskies. Collison, still showing signs of dehydration, received fluids intravenously after practice per the UCLA Athletic department.

(photo credit: Washington Athletics)



At Jan 9, 2008, 5:22:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Washington by -12.

At Jan 9, 2008, 7:26:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UCLA by 15

At Jan 9, 2008, 9:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bruins will come out flat to start the game - AGAIN. Despite Ben's best efforts, the team cannot help but look past this game to Saturday's matchup. Although Collison will play, he is not near 100% or even 80%. Bruins will win, but the game won't be as easy as the odds makers are giving on this one (approx 15+ pts).

At Jan 9, 2008, 10:12:00 PM, Anonymous J said...

Can we get an update on Matta? He hasnt been playing a lot of minutes lately, is he back to 100% from the groin injury?

At Jan 10, 2008, 12:15:00 AM, Anonymous Steve said...

UCLA by 2 (at the buzzer).

At Jan 10, 2008, 12:51:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

We better not overlook the Huskies!!
Let's do this Bruins!!
Take it to them from the start!!!

At Jan 10, 2008, 12:57:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an UCLA basketball fanatatic I have to say great job BBR!
One thing. What do you mean by,
" they should win this home game going away."
What do you mean by going away?

At Jan 10, 2008, 1:12:00 AM, Anonymous BruinBlue said...

Winning going away = easy win

At Jan 10, 2008, 1:22:00 AM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

Howland didn't provide an update on Mata-Real's injury at the last pressor so he's probably fine and did not re-aggravate the groin injury.
One might attribute Mata-Real's recent decrease in minutes to Love's improvement with his defense and increasing stamina. Last week Love's PT increased from 27 to 31 min in the two games while Mata's decreased from 19 to 14.

At Jan 10, 2008, 1:25:00 AM, Anonymous Bruin Basketball Report said...

If the Bruins can stay focused and come out with intensity on their home floor, yes, do think it could be an easy win tonight.

At Jan 10, 2008, 4:08:00 AM, Anonymous Big Woof! said...

Bruin Report Online and Scout have just reported a verbal commit to the Bruins from Reeves Nelson. What do you at BBR know about this?

At Jan 10, 2008, 4:19:00 AM, Anonymous Big Woof! said...

Bruin Report Online and Scout have just reported a verbal commit to the Bruins from Reeves Nelson. What do you at BBR know about this?

At Jan 10, 2008, 4:36:00 AM, Anonymous Justin said...

I'm seeing the news of Nelson committing all over the web as well.


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