Bruins and Tigers, a 2006 Defensive Redux?
By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report
This Saturday UCLA plays Memphis for the first time since the West Regional Final in 2006 when the Bruins smothered the Tigers for a 50-45 win at the Oakland Coliseum to earn its first Final Four appearance since 1995.
Similar to 2006, many people this year have questioned whether the Bruins match-up well against the Tigers on the court.
In 2006, Memphis was considered the more athletic team with bigger and longer players. The Tigers had a high-octane offense, averaging over 81 points per game.
The Bruins in 2006? Well, they were considered the 'disciplined' team.
Sound familiar to recent articles in the media?
Yet, there are certainly some real differences in both teams from two years ago, which may have a big impact on Saturday's game.
In the 2006 regional final game UCLA Coach Ben Howland had the luxury of having two lock-down defenders, in Cedric Bozeman and Arron Afflalo, both who had the ability to guard any position on the perimeter.
Howland exploited this advantage against Memphis by switching defensive assignments at the start of the game by placing 6'6 wing Cedric Bozeman on 6'2 guard Darius Washington and assigning 6'4 Arron Affalo to guard the taller 6'7 Rodney Carney.
The 2006 starting five match-ups:
Jordan Farmar on Antonio Anderson, SG
Arron Afflalo on Rodney Carney, SF
Cedric Bozeman on Darius Washington PG
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on Shawnee Williams, PF
Ryan Hollins on Joey Dorsey, C
The strategy worked.
Washington, who had dominated Jordan Farmar in an earlier meeting between the teams, was held to 4 of 10 shooting and was forced into four turnovers by Bozeman's shadowing defense. And in an epic battle on the wing, Afflalo shut down NBA-bound, C-USA Player of Year Rodney Carney, limiting him to just 5 points on 2 of 12 shooting.
With Memphis' two stars shutdown and 7'0 Bruin center Ryan Hollins manning the middle, UCLA held the Tigers to a season-low 31.5% shooting and 18 turnovers on its way to a convincing victory.
Move forward to 2008, UCLA has Pac-10 Defensive player of the year 6'3 Russell Westbrook; however, it does not have nearly the defensive personnel of the 2006 club.
Whereas the presence of Westbrook helps to make up for the loss of Afflalo on the defensive perimeter, instead of a 6'6 long and agile Bozeman, the Bruins have Josh Shipp who is perhaps the team's weakest defender on the wing.
And while Darren Collison is an excellent on-ball defender, his 6'1, 165 lb frame puts him at a decided size disadvantage against the Tigers' big backcourt of 6'3 205 lb Derrick Rose and 6'7 Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Howland recognizes the quality of the Memphis backcourt and understands the challenges his team faces in matching up with it.
"Their offense starts with Derrick Rose," Howland said. "Jason Kidd is a very good analogy, but with a better jump shot at the same stage. Chris Douglas-Roberts is very skilled with the ball, at putting the ball on the floor and making plays. He attacks the rim, he can knock down a three. He can do it all.
In 2006 Darius Washington was a solid point-guard for Memphis but NBA-lottery bound Rose is a completely different player who provides the team speed and shot creation at the point. Rose is definitely a difference maker and makes the Tiger offense hum.
The match-ups on the perimeter for Saturday's game between the two clubs will likely be Russell Westbrook on Douglas-Roberts, Josh Shipp on Antonio Anderson, and Darren Collison on Derrick Rose.
"We haven’t talked about the match-ups yet but most likely I will be on Rose," Collison said. "For a freshman to do what he does is a terrific accomplishment. I’ve played against him a couple of times in camps. A good player. He’s very athletic."
UCLA has one of the best team defenses in the nation. The Bruins pride themselves on their quick rotations, hedges, and pressure defense; however, basketball is also a game of individual match-ups.
Whether UCLA will be able to duplicate its stellar defensive effort of 2006 on Saturday against Memphis may likely come down to the match-up between Collison and Rose.
(photo credit: AP)
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