UCLA Preview

Devils Digest Previews ASU's next Pac-10 Opponent

UCLA Bruins (9-3, 3-1)

UCLA Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Ben Howland (2nd season)
Assistants: Donnie Daniels, Ernie Ziegler, Kerry Keating

Projected Starting Five (returning starters in bold; 2004-05 statistics):
PG – Jordan Farmar, 6-2 170 Fr. (13.2 pts, 2.5 rebs)
SG – Aaron Afflalo, 6-5 206 Fr. (10.7 pts, 3.0 rebs)
SF – Josh Shipp, 6-5 200 Fr. (7.9 pts, 4.5 rebs)
PF - Dijon Thompson, 6-7 209 Sr. (17.5 pts, 9.1 rebs, 43.2% 3-pt)
C – Michael Fey, 7-0 270 Jr. (9.8 pts, 4.1 rebs)

Key Reserves: C Ryan Hollins, 7-0 225 Jr. (5.9 pts, 1.1 blks)
PF Lorenzo Mata 6-8 231 Fr. (4.1 rebs, 61.1% FGs)
SG Brian Morrison 6-2 192 Sr. (8.9 pts, 35.0% 3-pts)

Like most teams that play multiple freshmen for significant minutes, the Bruins have been somewhat inconsistent so far this season. Their most recent results have been a reflection of this inconsistency.

Last week, UCLA notched two wins at home against the Washington schools. This is an impressive feat, especially considering that UW is rated in the top 15 teams in the country and the Huskies got out to an early 21-point lead. However, the Bruins showed some poise (while the Huskies lost focus). When the final buzzer sounded, the young UCLA squad had pulled off a surprising 95-86 win.

The Bruins also needed to come from behind in their win over Washington State on Thursday night, although their victory over the Cougs took two overtimes to accomplish. WSU built a comfortable 17-point advantage in the second half, only to see the streaky Bruins get hot and tie up the score at the end of the game. The teams battled evenly for the first overtime period, but the Bruins young legs prevailed in the second extra period, 80-77.

Not only are UCLA's recent wins impressive, even their losses are against tough teams and have all been away from Pauley Pavilion. The Bruins have succumbed to Boston College, Michigan State, and Oregon State -- all teams that have proven their mettle so far this season -- and none of the games were complete blowouts.

Howland has done a very good job attracting solid young talent to the Bruins and the pack of freshmen and sophomores that see significant playing time reflect this. The Bruins are young, but athletic. Like the Sun Devils, they only play one true "big man" and round out their starting five with wings and guards.

Luckily, Michael Fey is no Ike Diogu so the Devils should have a significant advantage down low.

To win this game, the Devils must take advantage of UCLA's youth and inexperience. Jason Braxton, one of the Pac 10's better on-ball defenders, must pressure Jordan Farmar and force him into uncomfortable situations throughout the game -- dribbling with is off hand, starting the offense a little further out on the floor than is desired, bringing the ball up the floor against pressure.

Additionally, the Devils must guard the perimeter shot. They cannot allow UCLA's shooters to get consistent open looks at the basket. UCLA will not present much of an inside threat and Diogu has done a good job changing opponents' shots when they do drive to the basket, so the Sun Devils' defenders should be out guarding the perimeter shot closely.

A major factor in the game will be consistent effort and focus. As Washington proved, good teams can build big leads on the inexperienced Bruins. The Huskies also proved that UCLA could get some confidence and outscore even the most athletic of opponents.

The style of this game will be interesting to watch. Howland's Pitt teams and even the 2003-2004 UCLA team liked to slow it down some and make teams play a half court game; however, the Bruins went up and down the court with Washington and actually outplayed the Huskies in a "track meet" sort of game. The Devils will have to dictate the tempo they want to play, which means they will push the ball on the fast break whenever opportunities present themselves but will also be happy to punch the ball down low to Diogu again and again and again and again if the fast break opportunities are not there.

If ASU can be patient enough to find Diogu consistently and they do not allow the Bruins to score a bunch of transition baskets, they should be in a good position to win the game. But UCLA is dangerous and too many turnovers or a lack of patience in getting Diogu the ball could spell disaster for an improved Sun Devil team.

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