Unlike UCLA's first exhibition opponent, EA Sports All-Stars, the Global Sports squad is an interior-oriented team with some powerful big men and penetration-oriented guards. This team lacks a strong 3-point attack, but will seek to control the pace of the game, keep the score below 80 (that passes for a slow tempo in preseason), and pound it inside or break the Bruins down off isolation and dribble penetration from the perimeter. In short, this is a decent preseason matchup for the Bruins, who should win by 20 points but get a better idea of where their interior defense and defensive rotation are less than a week from the opening season. Global Sports has defeated Kansas State, and lost to everyone else, including well-regarded Fresno State and Iowa State, and not so well-regarded Oregon, Nevada and San Jose State.
Global Sports features some players for whom emotional UCLA fans might wish to harbor an artificial feeling of ill-will, adding some spice to the game. Chief suspects include 5-10 point guard Michael Nurse, who played a key role off the bench for the Iowa State team that crushed UCLA in the 2000 Sweet 16. If that isn't bad enough, Courtney James is a 6-8 270 bruiser who was part of an academically challenged cheating Minnesota Gopher team that eliminated UCLA in the ‘97 Elite 8. To top it all off, the starting C for this team is Richard Mandeville, 6-11 270, the former La Canada star who blew off Jim Harrick for Indiana and Bob Knight while telling the press: "UCLA basketball is dead." How many championships did you win at Indiana, Richard? Other starters for Global Sports are likely to be the more congenial Rock Lloyd, 6-4, and Juaquin Hawkins, 6-6, both formerly of Long Beach State.
Off the bench, Bruin fans will remember a more recent foe, Shawn Daniels, 6-6 270, who played at Utah State last year (we beat them by 25, so try to be understanding). The remainder of the roster includes Darren McClinton, 5-11, a pretty quick point from James Madison, RJ Powell, a 6-1 shooter from San Jose State, Kevin Rice, a 6-3 shooter from Utah State, and Kevin Holland, 6-8 PF, another local product who played his college ball at De Paul. So, this squad features 3 quick guards, some slashers, and 4 really strong power posts. Nurse, McClinton and Rice can get hot from 3, but they can also be pretty cold. They will likely take what the UCLA defense gives them. It will be interesting to see if UCLA gives them the 3 or the dribble-drive just 5 days before the Bruins' first game of the regular season, against Houston.
Expect UCLA to go with what will likely be the set starting lineup for the remainder of the season, Ced Bozeman, Billy Knight, Jason Kapono, Matt Barnes and Dan Gadzuric. We expect Dijon Thompson, TJ Cummings, Andre Patterson, Rico Hines and Ryan Walcott to see impact minutes off the bench, and given the size of this team, we wouldn't be surprised to see either Josiah Johnson or John Hoffart to see action a little earlier than they did on Thursday night. The keys to the game will be UCLA figuring out if Global Sports is on from 3 and then responding accordingly, defensive rotation to cut off penetration, tough body work by the UCLA post players against some of these bruisers and, lastly, offensive continuity: If the Bruins get the ball to Jason Kapono, Billy Knight and Dan Gadzuric where they like it, Global Sports is unlikely to stop UCLA from scoring consistently.
We think this will be a boring exhibition game with some hard fouls and ugly brute play, and it won't prove much. UCLA will likely win by about 20 points, but is unlikely to score more than 90 points. Let's go to Maui!