UCLA faces truly miserable Long Beach State this afternoon at Pauley Pavilion. No less than a one-sided win would be surprising...
UCLA is an eighteen-point favorite over Long Beach St. this afternoon. Given what we've seen from the Bruins this year, the spread should tell you all you need to know about the 49ers. Long Beach St. has a good basketball tradition, but the days of Ed Ratleff are long gone.
Long Beach St. comes into the game with a 1-3 record, the only victory coming over Cal State Monterey Bay. Hopefully that's an actual school and not the aquarium. The 49ers have lost games to UNC Charlotte, Pepperdine and Southern Utah.
First-year coach Larry Reynolds is well respected among basketball coaches and, despite being severely undermanned, you can expect Long Beach St. to come out with a plan. One would assume that plan includes making UCLA play defense for more than a couple passes. The Bruins don't do a good job of maintaining their defensive intensity for long stretches, so look for the 49ers to slow it down. Expect to see Long Beach St. go deep into the shot clock on most of their possessions.
Long Beach St. has one player, 6-4 shooting guard Tony Darden, who is capable of putting points up in a hurry. The senior wing scored 24 points against Pepperdine, making a school record eight three-pointers. Darden averages 19 points a game. The only other 49er to average in double figures is 6-7 junior forward Kevin Roberts, who is scoring 13 points a game.
Due to injuries and transfers, Long Beach St. doesn't have a point guard. They use 6-6 senior small forward Lemi Williams to bring the ball up court. So far this season, Williams has 14 turnovers and 8 assists. As a team, the 49ers have 83 turnovers and only 63 assists.
Given the 49ers ball-handling woes, Steve Lavin figures to bring back the fullcourt press. UCLA had decent success when they sprang the press on Duke late in the game last Saturday. If UCLA is willing to press throughout the game, they should be able to get the tempo they want and force the 49ers into mistakes.
The Bruins haven't appeared capable of blowing anybody out, but they should roll against Long Beach St. Not to set expectations too high, but anything less than a blowout here would be a disappointment.
UCLA 87 Long Beach St. 60.