Friday, March 07, 2008

UCLA vs. California - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Pac-10 conference champion UCLA (27-3, 15-2) plays its last regular season game on Saturday when it hosts the California Golden Bears (15-13, 6-11) at Pauley Pavilion.

The Bruins clinched the conference regular season championship on Thursday with a 77-67 comeback win over Stanford. Darren Collison scored 24 points including two free throws at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime. In the extra five-minute period, the Bruins outscored the Cardinal 14-4.

While some suggest the Bruins should use this game to rest up for the tournament, more likely, UCLA will be looking to solidify their chances of gaining a No.1 or No.2 seed in the West region with a victory over the Bears in this last regular season match-up.

Cal has won at least one game against UCLA each of the last nine seasons. Last year, the Bears dropped both regular-season games but then upset the Bruins, 76-69, in overtime in the Pac-10 Tournament quarterfinals.

UCLA beat Cal in the team's first meeting in early January at Haas Pavilion. Freshman Kevin Love dominated scoring 19 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the Bruins' 70-58 win.

On Thursday night USC beat beat California 93-89 at the Galen Center. Patrick Christopher led Cal with 24 points before fouling out with 17.8 seconds remaining. Ryan Anderson had 22 points and 12 rebounds.

The Bears have played better on the road than at home. They finished conference play 2-7 at Haas but are 4-4 in road league games, picking up victories over Washington State, Washington, Oregon State and Arizona State.

With key returning starters and All-American candidate Ryan Anderson leading the team, Cal was expected to challenge for the Pac-10 title this season, instead it has been disappointing season for the players, coaches and its fans in Berkeley.

The Bears are in ninth place in the conference with a 6-11 record with only winless Oregon State behind them. There are new rumblings that perhaps Head Coach Ben Braun's job is in jeopardy after the season ends.

Now averaging 77.4 points per game, Cal leads the conference in scoring, a rate that also ranks 34th-best in the country. However the problems for the team have been on the defensive end where the Bears are allowing a conference-worst 78.1 points per game Opponents are shooting over 46% against the porous Bears defense.

Cal primarily plays a man-to-man defense and mixes it at times with a zone. Against UCLA, it wouldn't be surprising to find the Bears playing more zone than usual considering the Bruins' recent problems with their perimeter shooting.

Earlier in the season, Cal did a good job of slowing up the UCLA transition game by regularly sending back three defenders to clog up the running lanes. With big DeVon Hardin and Pac-10 standout Ryan Anderson hitting the offensive boards hard, we'll likely see the same strategy employed.

First team All-Pac 10 forward Ryan Anderson (6'10,240,So) is averaging 21.5 points, second in the Pac-10, and 10.0 rebounds per game. He scored a career-high 36 points against Nevada earlier in the season.

Anderson can score by posting up inside utilizing his size and solid footwork and can also score from outside. Anderson is shooting 49.3% from the field while hitting on a deadly 41.8% on three-pointers.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will get the initial look at Anderson. Mbah a Moute needs to use his speed and physicality against Anderson who is perhaps one of the toughest defensive assignments in the conference.

DeVon Hardin (6'11,250,Sr) is the Bears' man in the middle. He considered declaring for the NBA after last season but after missing most of the past two years to injuries, he decided to improve his stock value by playing one more season in Berkeley. 

However Hardin has been inconsistent at best this year.  His numbers have diminished as the season has progressed.  Hardin is averaging 9.6 points on 56.4% shooting, 7.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocked shots per game.

Love dominated Hardin in the first match-up recording a double-double against him.  Hardin still tends to be foul-prone and especially bites easily on pump-fakes, something Love does very well against bigger opponents.

Starting at a forward spot is Jamal Boykin (6'8,235,So). He's averaging 7.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game but he is capable of bigger numbers. Against Long Beach State earlier in the season, Boykin had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

At a guard spot is Patrick Christopher (6'5, 215, So), the team's second leading scorer at 15.8 points per game on 46.2% shooting.  He's a solid shooter out to the three-point point and also an effective slasher to the basket.  Christopher is shooting 35.8% from beyond the arc.

At point-guard, the Bears have lightening quick 5'10 sophomore Jerome Randle. He is averaging 13.7 points and 3.9 assists, however, he also has problems taking care of the ball.  Earlier in the season versus Missouri, he turned the ball over 10 times in 36 minutes. Coach Braun feels part of the problem is that Randle tries to make a big play each time he has the ball.

Nikola Knezevic (6'2,185,So) had been starting at a guard spot but now comes off the bench along with Eric Vierneisel (6'7,210,Sr). Freshman Harper Kamp (6'8,245), a post man off the bench, is averaging 4.7 points and 2.6 rebounds. He's providing the Bears solid minutes, 13.4, in his first season at the collegiate level. The Bruin coaching staff briefly recruited him last year.

UCLA is a double-digit favorite to win this game and has all the momentum going into Saturday afternoon's contest as well as the home court.  However, Cal has dangerous weapons in Anderson and multiple players who can get hot from outside.  The Bruins are witnesses, and victims (last year's Pac-10 tourney) , to what can happen when the Bears put it all together in a game. 

Tomorrow if the Bruins are still feeling the postgame euphoria from the conference title clinching win against Stanford and don't put forth their best effort, the result may be a closer game than some might expect.

Game Date: Mar. 8
Time: 12:30 PM PT
Place: Pauley Pavilion
Radio: AM 570

(photo credit Cal Athletics)



At Mar 7, 2008, 4:15:00 PM, Anonymous Bruin 06 said...

Re last paragraph: could not have said it better myself.

At Mar 7, 2008, 9:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bears by -5.

At Mar 8, 2008, 2:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I expect UCLA will come out slow and lethargic after Thursday and wouldn't be shocked if Cal were actually up at the half. Cal +9 points (1st half) is the lock of the weekend.
Remember what happened in last year's final regular season game.

At Mar 8, 2008, 7:05:00 AM, Anonymous the referees said...

we are getting paid off by John Wooden

At Mar 8, 2008, 7:16:00 AM, Anonymous DB said...

Sigh another just get by game..... Wake up offense and defense!

At Mar 8, 2008, 7:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hope you all took my Cal +9. Perhaps Shipp's phenomenal last-second shot will give him the confidence to take some shots from beyond the arc.

At Mar 8, 2008, 8:24:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

nice post above me...
that game was u-g-l-y


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