Wednesday, February 27, 2008

UCLA vs. Arizona State - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

No.4 ranked UCLA travels to Tempe on Thursday night to face the Arizona State Sun Devils to start its last road trip of the regular season.

Going into this week the Bruins (24-3, 12-2) lead the Pac-10 by a full game over the Stanford Cardinal. UCLA swept both Oregon schools at Pauley Pavilion last week.

The Sun Devils (17-9, 7-7) are tied for fifth with Arizona in the conference race and are vying for an invitation to the NCAA postseason tournament. No doubt Coach Herb Sendek and his team realize a signature win over a top-ranked team like UCLA would go far in the selection committee's decision.

In the two team's first meeting at Pauley Pavilion in January, UCLA routed the Sun Devils, 84-51. The Bruins picked apart Arizona State's zone, making the extra pass to an open teammate for easy scores. The Sun Devils were slow in their rotations and the Bruins made them pay, shooting a deadly 8 of 12 for 67% on three-pointers.

Arizona State lost on the road to Washington State, 59-47, last Thursday but then rebounded to beat Washington, 77-63, on Saturday in Seattle.

Since the arrival of Coach Sendek, Arizona State has blossomed into a solid defensive squad. They utilize an aggressive 3-2 match-up zone and play the passing lanes aggressively.

The Sun Devils allow just over 61 points a game on a stingy 40.9% shooting. They force teams to shoot over their zone or make them take tough low percentage shots against their aggressive interior defense.

Arizona State fields a young squad with three freshmen in the starting line-up.

James Harden (6'5, 210, Fr) is leading the team in scoring with 18.0 points per game. A crafty player with a quick first step, Harden can take an opponent off the dribble or beat him from outside, he is shooting 52.6% from the field and 41.3% from beyond the arc.

The left-handed freshman guard leads the team with 50 steals and is second on the team in assists and rebounds.

In the first match-up against UCLA, Russell Westbrook held Harden to just 9 points on 2 of 6 shooting, and he'll try to keep the wraps on Harden again in Tempe.

Freshman Ty Abbott (6'4, 195, Fr) starts at one wing. He struggled a bit midseason, perhaps hitting the proverbial freshman wall, but he's come on strong lately. Against California two weeks ago, Abbott scored a career-high 30 points including 8 of 13 on three-pointers.

If the Sun Devils expect to have any chance against the Bruins on Thursday, Abbott will need to have a similar performance. He is averaging 10.4 points a game on 41% field goal shooting and over 37% on three-pointers.

Abbott will be matched up against UCLA's Josh Shipp who needs to do a good job closing out on the young Sun Devil sharpshooter.

At another wing is native Latvian, Rihards Kuksiks (6'6, 205, Fr). Kuksiks stepped into the the starting line-up in place of Jerren Shipp (6'3, 214, So) a few games ago. He has an excellent feel for the game and gives the Sun Devils another solid three-point threat and a little more size on the floor.

Kuksiks is shooting almost 40% from the three-point line. Over the last four games, he is averaging 11.0 points including ten three-point field goals made.

Junior center Jeff Pendergraph (6'10, 230, Jr) is second on the team in scoring with 12.7 per game and is the leading rebounder at 6.7. Pendergraph is a good low post scorer at possesses a solid midrange jumper.

Pendergraph has the ability to be an impact player on both ends of the court, but at times, as a result of his unselfishness, he can disappear on the court.

In the loss against UCLA, Pendergraph only recorded 6 points and 1 rebound matched-up against Kevin Love, while Love went for 20 and 10 against Arizona State.

At point guard for the Sun Devils is steady Derek Glasser (6'1, 180, So) who is averaging 6.3 points and 4.1 assists a game. Freshman Jamelle McMillan (6'2, 180) had started most of the season at point but has struggled of late and now is the back-up.

The Sun Devils have a solid bench. In addition to McMillan and Shipp, they also have transfer Eric Boateng (6'10, 245, So) and Antwi Atuahene (6'3, 205, Sr) in reserve.

While Arizona State is fighting hard for a spot in the tournament, the Bruins are looking for more consistency in preparation for the postseason. Josh Shipp is looking to end his slump from the three-point area where he has missed his last 20 attempts.

Sophomore reserve forward Nikola Dragovic is questionable for the game, he strained his groin muscle in practice earlier this week.

(photo credit: ASU Athletics)



At Feb 27, 2008, 4:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sun Devils by -3.

At Feb 28, 2008, 12:07:00 AM, Anonymous Jack said...

Looking for Westbrook to snuff out Harden again.
Take Harden out of the game...close out on the 3pt line against the others...then its Bruins by 8 in the desert.

At Feb 28, 2008, 1:55:00 PM, Anonymous smilin said...

Balanced scoring and Josh's stroke is back! Amazing what 285 J's will do for a guy!
'Zona didn't look good against SC. Bruins need to CRUSH the Cats and build for the Stanford game with a #3 Ranking. . .


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