Friday, February 29, 2008

UCLA vs. Arizona - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

No.4 ranked UCLA looks for a series sweep against Arizona when it takes on the Wildcats in a Sunday afternoon contest at McKale Center in Tucson.

The Bruins (25-3, 13-2) sit atop the Pac-10 conference one game ahead of Stanford. They have won four straight, including a rout of Arizona State on Thursday night, 70-49. UCLA shot 50% on three-pointers against the Sun Devils. Junior Shipp snapped out of an 0 for 20 shooting slump from long distance, hitting 4 of 8 from beyond the arc in the win.

Fighting for a No.1 or No.2 seed in the West, UCLA needs to continue its winning ways down the stretch and beyond into the Pac-10 tournament.

In the last game between the two teams in early February, UCLA handed Arizona its worst loss of the season, 82-60. The Bruins dominated inside, scoring 52 of their points in the paint. UCLA out-rebounded Arizona by 14 rebounds.

A perennial winner over the past two decades under Coach Lute Olson, Arizona (17-11, 7-8) has struggled this season. Coach Olson decided to take a leave of absence prior to the start of the season and assistant Kevin O'Neill was named interim coach in his place.

The Wildcats are fighting for a berth in the NCAA postseason tournament and needs to do well in the final two weeks of the regular season and Pac-10 tournament to ensure an invitation to the big dance. Arizona was dealt a major setback when it lost to USC on Thursday night at McKale Center, 70-58

One problem this year for Arizona has been its lack of depth on the roster. The Wildcats lack depth at every position on the floor, including at point-guard with Nic Wise out six weeks with a knee injury.

Four Wildcat players average 30 minutes of playing time per game with three of them averaging over 35 minutes.

Arizona likes to open up the floor on offense and score in transition. In the halfcourt set they are best when they penetrate and kick out to the open shooter. The Wildcats are an excellent three-point shooting team, leading the Pac-10 in three-point shooting percentage at almost 40%.

The Wildcats average 71.8 points per game on 48.1% shooting while allowing opponents 67.1 points on 44.7% field goal shooting.

On defense, Coach Kevin O'Neil has tried to transition his team to a tougher brand of man-to-man defense, but often times this season the Wildcats have reverted back to a zone defense as they did against UCLA in the first meeting.

Freshman sensation Jarryd Bayless (6'3, 199, Fr) leads the team in scoring with 20.6 points per game. Bayless has the ability to take his defender off the dribble with his quickness or hit from long distance. He's shooting 42.6% on three-pointers.

In a key match-up UCLA's Russell Westbrook will take on Bayless. He did a good job checking Bayless in the first meeting, denying him the ball and holding him to just 13 points.

Sophomore forward Chase Budinger (6'7, 203, So) is averaging 17.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. More of a catch-and-shoot offensive player, he has had difficulty when defenders force him to put the ball on the floor daring him to beat them off the dribble.

Budinger will be shadowed most of the game by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. Mbah a Moute has the speed and size to bother a player like Budinger. Budinger was just 4 of 12 for 9 points against UCLA in the previous game.

At center for the Wildcats is Jordan Hill (6'10, 226, So) who has been one of the most improved players in the conference this season. A tough and solid player down low on both ends of the court, Hill is averaging 12.8 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds a game.

Hill has developed an array of short range shots, shooting almost 60% from the field. In the last meeting, Hill did not guard Kevin Love for most of the game, instead he served as a weakside-help defender to take advantage of his shot-blocking abilities. The Wildcats opted to guard Love with 6'6, 235 lb forward Fendi Onobun.

At the other guard spot is Jawann McClellan (6'4, 204, Sr). The senior guard is averaging 9.0 points and 40.0% from beyond the arc.

McClellan is a very physical backcourt player who can also take the ball to the hoop. This will be a good match-up for UCLA's Josh Shipp who has the speed and physicality to guard McClellan.

Freshman Jamelle Horne and senior Daniel Dillon combine to primarily play the final wing spot on the floor.

It hasn't been a stellar season for the "other freshman" on the team - Jamelle Horne. He's averaging just 3.1 points on 42.9% shooting. Dillon is more of a defensive specialist than a scorer, he's averaging 2.4 points on an anemic 37% shooting.

UCLA broke out of its mini-shooting slump against Arizona State on Thursday night and look to continue the positive trend into the tournament.

In what used to be a marquee match-up between UCLA and Arizona, the game between these two teams has lost some of its luster, mainly due to UCLA's domination over the Wildcats the past three seasons.

The Bruins are building momentum as they head into March and beyond while the Wildcats are still looking for some consistency.

UCLA looks like overwhelming favorites to win the game in Tucson, but the Wildcats will be playing in front of a large home crowd, and one just needs to look to the Washington contest in Seattle to realize how far home court advantage can take a team.

UCLA vs Arizona
Date: Sunday, March 2
Time: 1:00 PM PT
Place: Tucson, AZ
Radio: AM 1150

(photo credit: UA Athletics)



At Feb 29, 2008, 4:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cats by -7.

At Feb 29, 2008, 11:54:00 PM, Anonymous BBlue said...

Arizona is just a shadow of itself from their heydey but they can still be dangerous... Bruins need to come out strong the rest of the way.

At Mar 1, 2008, 9:45:00 AM, Anonymous Herald said...

Bruins by 5 in OT. Cats may play tough down the stretch but will poop out late.

At Mar 2, 2008, 2:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we all just BOOGIE down now!


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