By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report
The UCLA Bruins return to action when they travel across town to face rival USC at the Galen Center on Sunday.
The No.6 ranked Bruins (21-3, 9-2) sit atop the Pac-10 conference a half-game ahead of Stanford. The Cardinal lost in overtime to Arizona State in Tempe on Thursday, 72-68.
Last Sunday UCLA suffered a disheartening loss to Washington in Seattle, 71-61. The Bruins were out-rebounded and out-hustled by the ninth-place Huskies. Junior guard Darren Collison was held to only 3 points on 1 of 8 shooting.
The Bruins come into the game against the Trojans looking to avenge an earlier season loss at Pauley Pavilion. USC's Davon Jefferson scored a game-high 25 points in the upset win.
USC's defense baffled the Bruins all game long, utilizing a triangle and two zone defense to shut down Kevin Love down low, and the Bruins never made the necessary adjustments shooting an anemic 33.3% from the field.
The Trojans (15-8, 6-5) have won six of its last eight games and are currently tied for third place in the Pac-10.
After having problems getting into Pullman last Saturday, the Trojans were embarrassed by the Cougars, 74-50. It matched the biggest loss margin in the Tim Floyd era at USC.
USC received bad news earlier this week when it was revealed guard Daniel Hackett was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back. Although the injury will not require surgery, Hackett may not return to the team this season.
Hackett was averaging 9.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and was leading the Trojans with 79 assists. His loss is a big blow to the team, Hackett played a major role in the upset win against UCLA, scoring key baskets down the stretch to help stave off a Bruin rally.
Entering this week's action, USC ranked 18th in the country and second in the Pac-10 in defensive field goal percentage at 38.8%. Meanwhile, UCLA is allowing opponents to shoot 45.1% against them.
Not a strong rebounding unit, the Trojans are being outrebounded on the glass by a margin of -6.4 per game. In January they were beaten on the boards by the Bruins, 39-30, but still managed to pull out the win.
On offense the Trojans are shooting 48.4% and averaging 68.8 points per game. They are led in scoring by guard O.J Mayo.
Mayo (6'5, 200, Fr) is averaging 20.2 points per game on 44.3% field goal shooting. He scored 16 points in the last meeting in Westwood. Mayo took just 12 field goal attempts, his unselfishness on the offensive end and allowing the game come to him was a key in his team's victory.
Russell Westbrook did a good job on Mayo defensively but it may have affected his offensive game. Westbrook shot just 2 of 11 from the field for 4 points. Part of the Trojan game plan was to take Love and guard Darren Collison out of the game offensively and make the other Bruins beat them - unfortunately Westbrook's offensive effort was not up to the task.
Forward Davon Jefferson (6'8, 215, Fr) is a long, athletic forward who gave the Bruin defense problems. He scored 25 points mostly on back cuts behind the Bruin's help defense.
Jefferson is averaging 13.1 points on 58.6% shooting and 6.2 rebounds. UCLA could have done a better job guarding Jefferson but Luc Richard Mbah a Moute missed most of the second half due to a concussion he suffered earlier in the game.
At this point, Mbah a Moute is listed as probable for Sunday's game. He sprained his ankle in the Arizona game a week ago. Mbah a Moute is doing stationary exercises and was out of his walking boot earlier this week. He missed both games in Washington due to the ankle injury. Without Mbah a Moute, the Bruins will have to counter with Alfred Aboya and James Keefe.
Center Taj Gibson (6'9, 225, So) had 9 points and 8 rebounds against UCLA's Kevin Love in the first meeting. He is averaging 10.0 points on 58% field goal shooting and a team-high 7.8 rebounds.
Kevin Love, who was doubled and tripled team by the Trojan zone, needs to come out much more active in this game. Rather than try to bang away inside, Love needs to step away outside the paint to set screens for teammates or to get free for midrange shots from the free throw line or short corner. Against the Huskies last Sunday, Love only managed 8 shot attempts in the game.
At another guard spot for the Trojans is Dwight Lewis (6'5, 215, So) who is averaging 10.7 points a game. A steadying force due to his consistent play, the Trojans seem to play better whenever he's on the court. He'll work hard on the defensive end to check UCLA's Josh Shipp who led the Bruins in scoring in the last match-up with 21 points.
Replacing Daniel Hackett at starting point-guard will be Angelo Johnson (5'11, 180, Fr). He is averaging 4.4 points and 2.0 assists a game.
USC did a good job spreading the floor against the Bruin defense in the January game, negating the help defense Coach Ben Howland relies on to help put pressure on the ball.
The loss of Daniel Hackett is a big blow for the Trojans, since he was part of the guard rotation that effectively took the Bruins off the dribble for easy scores at the basket.
Coach Howland thought his team came out too high, too amped up, in the first game. No doubt, he will have his team's emotions checked before coming onto the floor for this big rematch.
UCLA vs USC
Date: Sunday, February 17
Time: 7:00 PM PT
Place: Galen Center
TV: FSN/FSN Prime
Radio: AM 570
(photo credit USC Athletics)
Labels: Game Previews