When: 8:00 p.m. Pacific/11:00 p.m. Eastern
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Cal's complete demolition of UCLA just a few days after a painful defeat to USC signalled the beginning of improved play from the Bears that has seen them rise from 4th to 2nd place in the standings despite having to play Stanford twice in that span. Now the depleted Bruins will try to exact some revenge in Los Angeles.
It has been a very trying season for the Bruins, who have been operating all season with a limited bench thanks to a combination of a small roster and too many injuries. I won't get into how I'm worried about Cal suffering a similar fate at some point over the next few years. In any case, the Bruins haven't fared well all season long. They suffered through a brutally difficult non-conference schedule, and have managed a conference record of just 6-8, mostly built on wins over the weaker teams in the Pac-12.
Cal beat UCLA rather easily in part because Reshanda Gray was unstoppable. UCLA didn't really have anybody on the roster capable of guarding Gray (Corrine Costa fouled out in 29 minutes) and Gray scored 32 points on 12-18 shooting. There's not really any reason to expect UCLA to be able to handle her this time, but I'm sure Reshanda will receive more frequent double teams.
Cal's defensive focus will likely fall on Nirra Fields, who scored 26 points against Cal last time out. Thea Lemberger and Antonye Nyingifa are the other two primary scorers for UCLA (all three average double digits), but both struggled badly against Cal's defense last time. UCLA's lack of depth essentially means that all three of their key players need to be firing at once to win games.
Our Computer Overlords Predict
Sagarin Predictor: Cal by 4.5 points
This seems generous for the Bruins considering that UCLA has already lost at home to USC, Colorado and Washington, but our computer overlords don't care that Cal appears to be playing better basketball than earlier in the season.
Keys to the game
Make one or two of UCLA's 3 key players have a bad offensive game: Maybe you send Mercedes Jefflo out to make life miserable for Lemberger, and then bring occasional double teams when Nyingifa gets the ball. Maybe you play screens heavily towards preventing Fields and Lemberger from getting off any 3s because you don't think UCLA has anybody that can punish us inside. I'm not exactly sure what the gameplan should be, but UCLA's limited roster means that there are lots of way to try to slow down their big 3 scorers.
Pound the ball into the paint: This is pretty much always a key for the 2013-14 Bears, but more so against UCLA because a) the Bruins struggle with interior defense and b) UCLA can't really afford any foul trouble because of depth issues. Drive the lane, pass it into the post, attack the paint in transition - it's always a good strategy, but particularly against this UCLA team.
Win the turnover battle: About the only thing that UCLA is particularly good at this year is avoiding turnovers on offense and causing turnovers on defense. One of the reasons Cal beat UCLA so decisively at Haas was because the turnover battle was essentially even. If UCLA wants to win this game, they probably need somewhere between a +5 or +10 turnover margin. Prevent that from happening and Cal should cruise to a relatively routine win.
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- Golden Nuggets: Pausing the proposal to pause up-tempo offenses and Jeopardy! finals viewing thread
- WBB: Improved defense keeps Cal consistent
- Ted Agu memorial service on Monday, February 24 at Haas Pavilion