Wednesday, March 05, 2008

UCLA vs. Stanford - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

No.2/3 UCLA takes on No.7 Stanford Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion in a battle for first-place in the Pac-10 conference race.

Stanford (24-4, 13-3) sits one full game behind the Bruins (26-3, 14-2) in the standings. A win by the Cardinal would put them in a virtual tie for first place.

After head-to-head competition, the next tiebreaker is each team's record against the team occupying the next highest position in the final regular-season standings. If Stanford beats UCLA then the two teams will have split their series. Since both teams swept Washington State, the second place team, then the next tie breaker would likely be their series against USC which is expected to finish third. The Bruins are 1-1 against the Trojans while Stanford currently holds a 1-0 record against USC with a game on Saturday still to be played.

UCLA swept through the desert last week beating both Arizona State and Arizona to remain atop the conference, while Stanford defeated both Washington schools in Maples Pavilion to keep the pressure on UCLA.

The Bruins own a 128-89 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 1924-25. Since posting a six-game winning streak that spanned from 2002-2005, Stanford has dropped four of the last five meetings. It includes a 76-67 loss at Maples Pavilion back on January 3 in the Pac-10 opener that featured five three-pointers and 21 points from UCLA's Josh Shipp.

Stanford averages 71.0 points per game while shooting 45.4% from the field and 36.5% on three-pointers. Its a team built around twin 7-footers, Brook and Robin Lopez, who dominate inside play on both ends of the court.

Not surprisingly, the Cardinal has outrebound teams by almost a ten rebound margin and have blocked more than twice as many shots (5.2 per game) than its opponent.

In the first contest, the Bruins did a good job limiting both Lopez brothers on the offensive end. UCLA doubled down on Brook Lopez whenever he touched the ball within 15 feet of the basket. Brook, who was just returning from a academic suspension, scored just 13 points.

In addition, UCLA did a good job pressuring on the perimeter and making it difficult for Stanford's guards to pass the ball inside unfettered to their big men. Expect UCLA to apply the same defensive pressure in the post and on the perimeter to keep Stanford from establishing any offensive rhythm.

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, but Lopez has returned to form and is big trouble for any defense to handle.

Lopez leads Stanford in both scoring and rebounding with 19.3 points and 11.2 caroms per game. A very active and solid post player, he also possesses a good midrange jumper. Lopez will alternate between the low and high post on offense with his twin brother, Robin, throughout the game.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will get the initial assignment against Brook Lopez but he will get plenty of help from the five spot on the double in the post.

Don't be surprised if UCLA utilizes its own twin towers at times during this game. Coach Howland has indicated he's inclined to use both his centers, Kevin Love and Lorenzo Mata-Real at the same time on the floor against bigger front lines.

Brook's brother, Robin Lopez (7'0, 255, So), plays the game more with his back to the basket. He's averaging 9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game as well as 2.2 blocks.

Both Lopez brothers are prone to foul trouble and perhaps Love can use his guile and sound low-post skills to cause problems for them underneath. Brook and Robin fouled out of the game down the stretch in the first meeting.

At small forward Stanford starts Lawrence Hill (6'8,215,Jr). Hill has had problems duplicating his All-Pac-10 player performance of last season. He's averaging 9.1 points a game and 5.2 rebounds. Hill has struggled getting into the flow of the offense this season, he's shooting just 42.5% from the field.

Hill has been a good three-pointer in the past but he's struggled with consistency this past season, although he's shooting 38.4% from beyond the arc.

In the backcourt are Anthony Goods (6'3,205,Jr) and Mitch Johnson (6'1,190,Jr).

Goods 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.

The junior guard is averaging 11.2 points on just 37.6% field goal shooting, however, Goods also hits 35.8%% on three-pointers.

Mitch Johnson is a much improved point guard and is perhaps one of the keys to Stanford's successful season thus far. Johnson is averaging 6.7 points and 4.5 assists per game and takes good care of the ball.

UCLA will count on both Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison to apply intense pressure on the perimeter in order to make it difficult for Stanford to initiate their halfcourt offense inside.

Fred Washington (6'5,215,Sr), Taj Fingers (6'8,200,Sr), and Landry Fields (6'7,200,So) have given Stanford solid support off the bench. Both Fingers and Washington give the team energy and defensive presence in reserve and Fields can light it up from outside if he get's it going.

Stanford is a much improved team from the one UCLA defeated up at Palo Alto to start the season. Brook Lopez had just returned from his suspension and was still getting assimilated on the floor. Lopez is now playing his best ball of the season and has been mentioned prominently as a candidate for player of the year.

On the other hand, UCLA's Darren Collison was still adjusting after returning from his knee injury, and was playing without his knee brace for the first time when these two teams met in January.

Aside from defending aggressively on the perimeter and in the low post against Stanford, UCLA will need to do a better job hitting their open outside jumpers. In the first match-up, UCLA hit on 56.3% on their three-pointer, led by Josh Shipp's five treys. Shipp has been struggling with his outside shot of late and will look to shoot himself out of the slump.

If the Bruins are unable to spread Stanford's defense with their outside shooting, then they'll risk the defense collapsing around Kevin Love in the paint.

In addition to the Pac-10 conference race, this game will have major ramifications on the NCAA tournament seedings with the winner perhaps becoming the favorite for gaining either a No.1 or No.2 seed in the coveted West region.

(photo credit: Stanford Athletics)



At Mar 5, 2008, 4:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UCLA by 6.

At Mar 5, 2008, 4:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trees by -9.

At Mar 6, 2008, 12:22:00 AM, Anonymous BruinBlue said...

Great Preview. Now lets get down to it and take down Stanford. This game is going to be a war!

At Mar 6, 2008, 12:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For whatever reason, Stanford does not show up tonight and the game is a blow out. UCLA by 17.

At Mar 6, 2008, 1:51:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

UCLA by 11.
My gut says the Cardinal shoot poorly due to a stellar Bruin defensive effort.
Mata and Love will be on the floor at the same time shutting down the twins. Our guards will close out on their 3 point shooters and Shipp will make 60% of his shots.
The Cardinal are NOT coming into our house and winning the PAC-10...NO WAY!
Go to Q's at 6pm...1st level by the pool tables...ask the bartender for the UCLA group....

At Mar 6, 2008, 7:20:00 AM, Anonymous willis said...

Excellent analysis. However, a couple of other things to think about.....
1) You might see Love on the perimeter a bit, pulling a Lopez away from the basket. If K-Love can knock down a trey or two early that would be huge and will impact a major dynamic of the game.
2) When UCLA "goes big" with Love and Mata-Real on the court at the same time that either puts Luc Richard on the bench with Josh having the guard Hill, or Josh on the bench, taking away a key scorer. Bottom line: with the Lopez twins Stanford creates all sorts of match-up problems for their opponents defensively. However, when UCLA "goes small" with their normal starting 5, if Luc Richard can get his offense going, Robin Lopez will have a hard time defending him.
3. UCLA is at it's best defensively and overall when doubling down on big and strong post players. Their added energy on defense also translates into offensive energy, steals, and easy baskets. Combine this with the energy that will be in Pauley tonight and it all adds up to a Bruin victory. Bruins by 7.

At Mar 6, 2008, 7:43:00 AM, Anonymous dee said...

i think we should play our game and have them adjust to ours... love should stay down low and hav stanford bigs pile up on fouls (we did that the first time) that way it will be very likely that we won't see any of the lopez at the end of the game when we can throw in the knock out punch... i think the key of the game is rebounds... the team that win the war on the boards will win the game... that means no o-reb for stanford and d-reb for us to start our fast break

At Mar 6, 2008, 2:25:00 PM, Anonymous Kevin Love said...


At Mar 6, 2008, 2:44:00 PM, Anonymous Bee said...

We were very fortunate to win this game.
Shipp was nearly invisible. If he's not going to stick his man on D, then at least be a deep threat. At least Luc plays D...come on dude!
We need to play better, but all in all, a gutsy win. Although the foul called at the end was a bad call, I think we showed better composure than they did--they just completely collapsed...
2 games in a row now that I feel we were lucky...
Oh well, I'll take it! :)

At Mar 6, 2008, 2:46:00 PM, Anonymous Smilin' said...

I think Stanford got robbed on the final call, but didn't the Bruins get robbed as well on Stanford's last drive to the bucket? I thought that was a charge. . .so the Collison call was a makeup. Thoughts?

At Mar 6, 2008, 2:48:00 PM, Anonymous Josh Shipp said...

i completely forgot how to shoot a free throw and i only like shooting 3 pointers if i am at least a good 5 feet behind the line, but i am happy we won.

At Mar 6, 2008, 3:10:00 PM, Anonymous bad win said...

stanford got robbed on the last call, no doubt, and i think howland would agree with that... our guys showed lacked of sportsmanship at the end of the game... we could do better than this. i wanted us to win, but not like this.

At Mar 6, 2008, 3:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are no make-ups. At least not intentional. There were some bad calls both ways, but that last shot by Collison was blocked - it was a bad call. Stanford should have won the game.
Oh well, a win is a win, right?
And as someone else said, we kept our composure... they collapsed.
I am more concerned with Shipp's play. He needs to get his groove back or else we won't get far.

At Mar 6, 2008, 4:20:00 PM, Anonymous Jayhawk Fan said...

What a shame that Stanford had to lose out on PAC-10 Championship due to a bad bad call? I guarantee that UCLA is going to fall in the PAC-10 tournament .. they just aren't that good.

At Mar 6, 2008, 4:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shipp is a liability at this stage in the game. Either he makes some shots ASAP or hits the bench. I'd almost rather have anybody else in there.

At Mar 6, 2008, 4:54:00 PM, Anonymous DB said...

I have been saying this almost all season long and that is against good teams, Bruins usually just get by on most games. Our defense and offense arent really that good. Sure we cause a lot of turnovers but you cannot rely on that to win games all the time.
Turnovers are a bonus to your regular game but it should not be what drives your team to score and win. Our half court offense looks horrible for most part in many games. It seems we either cant get anything going or we are holding the ball so long.
Sure you can say a win is a win, but it is only a matter of time before you dont get saved by opponents turnover. There are maybe 3-4 games this season that we won where I thought we should have lost. Tonight we got outplayed most of the game and won due to a complete lucky break by the refs at the end.
We missed OMG so many easy shots and we really dont have much play makers. Like I said, Westbrook may be our best NBA prospect right now, but imo no Bruin is ready for the next level right now.
Bruins need to practice their mid range jumpers a great deal. Sorry to see Stanford lose the pac 10 on a bad call even though im glad we won. Yes the shot before that should have been a charge, but those calls are tougher to make and more arguable than a clear block.

At Mar 6, 2008, 10:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please get off the bad call, you don't know what would have happened had it not been called. Bruins would have still had the ball with seconds to go,who is to say that they wouldn't have scored anyway, ifs ands or buts, the Bruins beat them in overtime, I don't think they were show boating, they deserved the release of energy. Yes, I've watched almost every Bruin game and I get mad at them most of them time but it takes good teams to pull it out and the Pac 10 is no walk in the park.

At Mar 6, 2008, 10:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stanford didn't lose the game because of a bad call, they lost the game by blowing an 11 point lead with under five minutes to go. Good job Bruins and Josh Shipp keep your head up, we wouldn't be the Pac 10 Champs without you!


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