The last tilt at Pauley Pavilion didn't go so well. Using a three-point barrage early and a strong transition game throughout, the Bruins decisively put down Cal, 79-65.
Since then, UCLA has fought its way into a three-way tie with Oregon and Arizona for first place in the conference. They lost their head to head with the Ducks, but upset the Wildcats in Tucson.
Despite themselves, the Bruins seem to have bought into at least one facet of Ben-Ball warriorhood and are playing tough defense. They're #1 in the league in FG% while also leading the Pac-12 in steals per game.
Their offense still comes and goes. They're the worst 3-point shooting team in the league and take the fewest attempts per game. However, Coach Howland has surprisingly kept the hounds unleashed and has allowed his young athletes to push the pace and run at every opportunity.
The question is whether our Bears will be up to the challenge mentally of protecting the ball and getting back on defense. We've seen great basketball lately when our guys are focused. Let's do this. Roll on you, Bears!
F Travis Wear(Jr), 6'10, 230 lbs, 12.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg
F Shabazz Muhammad(Fr), 6'6, 225 lbs, 18.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg
G Kyle Anderson(Fr), 6'9, 235 lbs, 9.4 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.7 apg
G Jordan Adams(Fr), 6'5, 220 lbs, 14.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg
G Larry Drew II(Sr), 6'2, 180 lbs, 6.5 ppg, 7.9 apg
F David "The Other" Wear(Jr), 6'10, 230 lbs, 7.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg
C Tony Parker(Fr), 6'9, 275 lbs, 6.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg
G Norman Powell(So), 6'4, 215 lbs, 6.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg
Our last preview can be found here:
In the last game, their front court destroyed ours. That's right. We got lit up by the Wear brothers. It's not a sentence I ever expected to write. Kyle Anderson dominated the glass and more than doubled his scoring average. By the time Muhammad got involved in transition, it was all over. Larry Drew isn't much of a scorer, but he's a tough and savvy playmaker. Adams and Muhammad are their best shooters and all-around scorers. Anderson is their smartest player and best rebounder. The Wear twins are pesky outside-in scoring threats. Parker provides bulk off the bench and Powell is another long-range shooter.
1) Cobbs/Wallace/Crabbe vs. Drew/Adams/Muhammad.
When we protect the ball, we've shown that we're capable of playing with anyone in the league. Like the Ducks and the Wildcats, the Bruins heavily rely on their transition game for easy points. In the last game, Monty went unorthodox and put Cobbs on Muhammad. Although Justin gives up a lot in height, he does have the quickness to stay with him. Crabbe matches up well with Adams as they both prefer to catch and shoot. Wallace continues to develop and will have to be ready to take his turn trying to slow down Shabazz. The biggest difference between this game and the last is that Cobbs seems to have shaken off his slump and is back to providing another scoring option alongside Crabbe.
2) Kravish/Solo/Thurman vs. Anderson/Wear/Wear
We got out-worked and out-hustled last time. But, there are signs that our bigs have grown up a lot throughout this season. They're competing on the glass and playing better defensively. Neither of the Wear twins are particularly physical and they'd rather shoot jumpshots than bang. Despite his numbers last game, Anderson really isn't comfortable as a shooter. But, he'll burn you if you leave your feet or get out of position. Staying disciplined with our close-outs and our denials will be the key here.
3) Will Monty break out the zone again?
Hard to say. Zona has a shoot-first point guard in Lyons who would rather drive and dish than run a half court set. Larry Drew Deux is more of a distributer than a scorer. But, he's also more comfortable in the open court. In theory, UCLA doesn't like to shoot threes...but that doesn't mean I'd feel comfortable leaving Muhammad and Adams open on the perimeter. They also have a number of options with their bigs. Both Wears can hit jumpers from the free throw line whereas Anderson is more of a threat with his passing ability. Since it protects our thin bench, I'd expect to see Monty try it as a change of pace to see if it throws UCLA off their game. But, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't stay with it for very long.
Game Time: Thursday, February 14th, 6:00 pm(PST)