Thursday, March 13, 2008

UCLA vs. USC - Pac-10 Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Amid questions about whether they deserved their win over California last Saturday, UCLA came out yesterday afternoon against the Bears with a mission, leaving no doubt who was the better team.  The Bruins hit a season-best 14 of 25 three-pointers to easily dispose of the Bears, 88-66, to move on to the semifinals against the Trojans of USC on Friday.

Darren Collison scored 19 points and Josh Shipp added 18.  Perhaps the most important piece from yesterday's game was Shipp breaking out of his shooing funk.  The red-shirt junior wing was 6 of 10 from the field and 3 of 6 from beyond the arc.  He was once again shooting with confidence and a bit of a swagger.  If UCLA is to go deep into the tourney, they'll need Shipp hitting consistently from the perimeter to open up the inside and to balance the offense.

Their Friday evening opponent at Staples, the USC Trojans, beat the Arizona State Sun Devils, 59-55, in their second round match-up.  Freshman O.J. Mayo scored a game-high 23 points and handed out 6 assists while the Trojan team dominated the glass outrebounding the Sun Devils, 32-19.

USC's Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson each had 11 points and nine rebounds.  The Trojan defense stiffened at the end, holding the Sun Devils without a field goal the remaining 9:35 of the game.

The game ended on a controversial play, and once again it centered around a questionable call by a Pac-10 official.

With 17 seconds remaining in the contest and Arizona State trailing by just two points, 57-55, James Harden drove and missed a lay-up, but teammate Jeff Pendergraph was there for the putback slam.  However, the official called a foul on Pendergraph for going over the back of Davon Jefferson for the rebound  Replays show it was perhaps a non-call at best.

The foul call was crucial.   Davon Jefferson converted his two free throw attempts for the final score of the game.

UCLA and USC split their Pac-10 series this season with each team winning on the visitor's floor.  In the first game at Pauley Pavilion, Jefferson poured in 25 points to upset the Bruins, 72-63.  In the game,  both Lorenzo Mata-Real and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute only played in the first half due to concussions they suffered during the contest.

The two teams met again later in February at the Galen Center with UCLA winning in a defensive contest, 56-46.  Kevin Love scored 13 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the victory.

In each game, the Trojans were effective in spreading the floor offensively and taking the Bruins off the dribble on the perimeter.  UCLA players were somewhat slow to rotate, giving Trojan players, especially Davon Jefferson's, open lanes to drive to the basket.  In the second game, UCLA did a decidedly better job rotating due to the presence of Mbah a Moute on defense.

The Bruins need to make sure they pressure the passer aggressively on the perimeter to prevent easy passes inside, as well as rotate quickly down low.  Teams this season have taken advantage of UCLA's defense when they haven't been as aggressive.

USC's triangle and two zone defense has bothered the Bruin offense.  The Trojan's defensive scheme is geared towards crowding Kevin Love in the paint while closely guarding Darren Collison and Josh Shipp on the perimeter, and leaving Mbah a Moute and Russell Westbrook to make the shots to beat them from the perimeter.

The Bruins did a better job in the second game penetrating and hitting the open shot.  No doubt they will see the same defense from Tim Floyd's Trojans again on Friday.

USC's Daniel Hackett, who was key to the Trojan's first victory, was
injured and did not play in the second match-up.  Since then, he has
returned to the line-up and has been an important part to the Trojans recent play, in particular providing them depth in the backcourt.  Hackett scored 6 points in 35 minutes against Arizona State

As usual against their crosstown rival, this will be a very tough game.  The Trojans are athletic on the perimeter and have 6'8 Taj Gibson down low who seems to always play his best against UCLA.  Nevertheless, if the Bruins come out as aggressive as they did against Cal on both the offensive and defensive ends, they have too much talent and coaching  to be denied a victory and trip to the championship game.

Game Information

No.1 seed UCLA vs No.4 seed USC
Time: 6:00PM PT
Place: Staples Center
Radio: AM 570

(photo credit: USC Athletics)



At Mar 13, 2008, 6:55:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Trojees by -7.

At Mar 13, 2008, 7:54:00 PM, Anonymous jake said...

The UCLA/CAL game shows you how good UCLA can be when they hit their shots. Let's hope to continue the good shooting the rest of the way.
The UCLA/USC game should be fantastic ... and ultimate bragging rights having split the series thus far. Neutral site. Mbah a Moute and Mata-Real w/o concussions and Hackett healthy. Both teams should be at their best.
Can't wait.

At Mar 13, 2008, 8:53:00 PM, Anonymous Bee said...

I love it when we just aggressively take it to a team, rather than passively sitting there, taking their best shot, and scraping out a win.
Games like the last Cal game show just how good our team could be. I think we get the #1 seed; however, what's more important at this stage is that the team is clicking together going into March Madness (yes, this means Shipp reestablishing himself as a legit outside threat to spread the floor).
If we can do this, I'd hate to be a high-seeded team assigned to the Western region to face us...
On a side note, I do hope KLove pulls an Al Horford, and stays one more year to work on his athleticism and explosiveness--he already has a high skill set, plus poise and mental toughness. I would really like to see him go out next year as a top 3 pick...he deserves it!

At Mar 14, 2008, 12:00:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

If we win the title, Love, DC and Westbrook are automatically gone along w/ Aboya (graduates early) and Mata...
Shipp and Mbah will dip their names in the draft but it would be wise for them to improve their 2nd rd draft status
As for the U$C game, we are going to give it to them...We are coming off our best game (shooting wise) of the season...
UCLA by 15...

At Mar 14, 2008, 1:11:00 AM, Anonymous Bare Gunner said...

BruinFan, don't bum our scene! Let's just concentrate on being the SC and not all our guys leaving us! But if UCLA can give us another championship banner to hang in Pauley (for Coach Wooden to look at next year) I'd be willing to trade having this year's entire team move on!

At Mar 14, 2008, 1:20:00 AM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

Bare Gunner and other Bruin Fans -
Come over to Q's on Wilshire in Santa Monica today at 5pm. I will be wearing a black shirt by the pool tables on the first level. Ask the waitresses for "UCLA Meetup." (I have a UCLA web-site)
Let's rock the joint!! It will be packed!!


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