UCLA Preview

ASU (16-7, 5-6) starts a pivotal LA road trip against the UCLA Bruins (12-7, 6-5) in Pauley Pavilion on Thursday night.

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. (12.4 pts, 3.3 rebs, 5.2 asst) – strong floor general and leader, named National Freshman of the Year at the midway point by The Sporting News
SG – Arron Afflalo, 6-5 206 Fr. (10.3 pts, 2.6 rebs) – athletic "two guard" that scored 17 points and dished out four assists against ASU in Tempe
SF – Josh Shipp, 6-5 200 Fr. (9.0 pts, 5.1 rebs) – athletic wing player, scored 20 in a game against UW (career high)
PF - Dijon Thompson, 6-7 209 Sr. (17.8 pts, 8.3 rebs) – the Bruins' best scorer; in last three games, averaging over 23 pts/game

C – Michael Fey, 7-0 270 Jr. (9.8 pts, 4.1 rebs) – big "space eater" inside; not that athletic, but fairly skilled; mainly asked to defend and rebound

Key Reserves:

C Ryan Hollins, 7-0 225 Jr. (5.9 pts, 1.1 blks) – thin, athletic player that usually has good games against ASU
PF Lorenzo Mata 6-8 231 Fr. (2.5 pts, 3.2 rebs) – strong rebounder; will be asked to help out defending Diogu
SG Brian Morrison 6-2 192 Sr. (7.6 pts, 1.6 asst) – streaky floor leader; shooting 42.0% from behind the arc in conference play


UCLA beat ASU in Tempe earlier this season, 86-82, employing a "big" double team on Ike Diogu. The Bruins would run another big player at Diogu as soon as he touched the ball on the blocks and Ike had a hard time finding open teammates because of the double team. At times, Diogu was trying to pass over UCLA's two seven-footers – Hollins and Fey.

Diogu struggled with the Bruins' defense and ended with 15 points. However, as usual, Diogu's play on the offensive end is not what caused the Devils to lose the game. It was their defense.

And defense will be the key in Westwood on Thursday night. ASU must find a way to control the tempo of the game. They cannot allow easy penetration into the middle. Farmar is too good with the ball in his hands to allow him to drive and kick it out to open teammates for easy shots.

The Devils must also take advantage of UCLA's youth. They are prone to lapses in games where they lose their concentration and ASU must capitalize when this happens. In Tempe, the Sun Devils built a twelve-point lead early, only to watch the Bruins go on an 18-5 run to take the lead.

Defensively, the keys will be to bother Farmar and to blanket Thompson. Farmar is the "straw the stirs the drink" for the Bruins' offense. He is the prototypical PG and gets the offense set and in rhythm. The Devil defenders must find a way to force him to start the offense a little further out on the floor, bring the ball up against pressure, and otherwise remain just a bit uncomfortable throughout the game. In the last meeting, Jason Braxton was able to achieve this while ASU was building the 12-point lead; however, when JB went to the bench, Farmar settled into a groove and was superb the rest of the way.

Unfortunately for ASU, defending has not been their strongest asset. They do not really do a good job on either interior or exterior players. They show promise in stretches, but rarely have they put together a sustained effort – especially against athletic teams.

Another issue the Devils have been having is giving up too many offensive rebounds. Both Stanford and Cal went hard to the offensive glass and came away with easy second chance points. UCLA will undoubtedly do the same. They are long and athletic and, if ASU doesn't put a body on them, they will come away with a good share of second opportunities.

It is getting to be a cliché, but to win; the Sun Devils must defend and rebound. They are fine on the offensive side of the ball. Their fates are sealed on defense.

Getting swept this weekend definitively ends any chance at an NCAA Tournament berth. We'll see how bad this team wants it this weekend.

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