UCLA Preview

And so it continues for the Arizona State Sun Devils (6-18, 0-13). The search for their first win in Pac-10 play still eludes them as they were swept in Oregon last weekend. The Sun Devils return to the desert to face the UCLA Bruins (21-3, 10-2) on Thursday night.

UCLA is coming off a shocking non-conference loss to West Virginia and will gladly welcome back sophomore PG Darren Collison, who missed the game against the Mountaineers due to injury. The Bruins still sit atop the Pac-10 and are a favorite to win the Pac-10 tournament in March and could very possibly receive a top seed in the NCAA tournament.

For the Sun Devils, its been a topsy-turvy season as first year head coach Herb Sendek has begun to win over fans as each game passes and has been able to get the absolute most out of his players, yet he still isn't getting wins. It's been frustrating but the Sun Devil faithful have been surprisingly understanding through the whole process and know that this team will soon be a winner.

Coach Ben Howland

Projected Starters

PG – Darren Collison – (13.0 PPG, 5.8 APG)
SG – Arron Afflalo – (17.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG)
SF – Josh Shipp – (13.1 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
PF – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – (9.0 PPG, 8.1 RPG)
C – Lorenzo Mata – (6.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG)

Impact Reserves

G – Michael Roll
G – Russell Westbrook
F – Alfred Aboya
C – James Keefe

Overview

The first meeting between these two teams was a very strange game as neither team played within their style. The Sun Devils, notorious for being awful in the first half went into the half at Pauley Pavilion with a 37-34 lead but came out as flat as can be in the second half and were outscored 26-13 before losing 60-50. In that game, Christian Polk led the team in scoring with 16 while Allen Morill was a force scoring 11 points and pulling down 7 rebounds. The Bruins were paced by Collison with 16 and Afflalo with 13 and Mbah a Moute had trouble scoring but he was a rebounding machine, getting 13 boards in the victory.

The Bruins are a fast team that relies on sharp perimeter shooting and strong defensive pressure. With a great young point guard in Collison and two of the most athletic slashers in the Pac-10 in Shipp and Afflalo, the Bruins beat teams with a dizzying array of size and speed that any team would envy. Mbah a Moute and Mata are great defensive post players and are very skilled rebounders, especially on the offensive end. Afflalo leads the team in scoring with 17.4 a game and Shipp and Collison each average about 13 points a game. Mbah a Moute is getting 9 points a game and pulling down 8 rebounds and Mata, a player who gets into a lot of foul trouble, has seen his numbers drop since the start of conference play.

When Ben Howland looks down his bench at his reserves, he doesn't get uncomfortable. He has a deep squad and everyone that wears a Bruins uniform is an outstanding ballplayer and can contribute immediately. Sophomore sharpshooter Michael Roll and freshman guard Russell Westbrook have made it easy to overcome Shipp's lingering injury problems. When it comes to relieving the post players, Alfred Aboya and James Keefe are solid rebounders and defenders.

Guards

With Collison returning from a short injury stint, the Bruins can breathe a little easier as they are a very well-oiled machine with him running the show. Collison is a great ball-handler, shooter, and is also a great defender. Paired up with him in the backcourt is Afflalo, who has turned into an elite scorer and has taken over many games this season and almost single-handedly led UCLA to victory. The Sun Devils will counter with their usual three-guard set of Polk, Derek Glasser, and Jerren Shipp. Antwi Atuahene has also been playing well of late in a combo guard-forward position and will likely get quality minutes.

Solid Edge – UCLA

Forwards

Josh Shipp has had a disappointing season but he is still a marquee player and is one of most talented players in the Pac-10. Mbah a Moute is one of the best rebounders in the Pac-10 and his engine never stops running. Allen Morill and Serge Angounou are finishing out their careers in style for the Sun Devils as each player has picked up their games lately. Morill created a lot of problems for UCLA in the first meeting between the two teams and Coach Sendek will likely use him in the same fashion.

Slight Edge – UCLA

Centers

In the first meeting, Jeff Pendergraph had a poor outing, scoring only 8 points and getting only 3 rebounds but he did well defensively against Mata who was a non-factor the entire game. For Arizona State to have a fighting chance, Pendergraph needs to take control of the low post and score and rebound effectively. If the Bruins cannot contain Pendergraph in the early going, the Sun Devils will be able to find more open shots and give the Bruins a run for their money.

Solid Edge – Arizona State

Final Score – UCLA 61 Arizona State 54

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