This might be one of the most important and anticipated exhibition games in recent memory for UCLA. The Bruins definitely need to show improvement from their performance in last Wednesday's exhibition against Concordia in which the Bruins pulled out a win 62-61, one they didn't deserve. In that game, they were pretty much a mess both offensively and defensively.
They were without two starting guards, Jerime Anderson and Mike Roll, which made a huge difference. Both Anderson and Roll will play tonight, along with freshman forward Brendan Lane, who also sat out Concordia with an ankle sprain.
Anderson is still coming back from a groin injury and Roll is recovering from an ankle injury, so it's uncertain how many minutes either will be able to play tonight.
Lane also had the flu on Monday, but is expected to be recovered.
Freshman Tyler Honeycutt suffered a stress fracture in his tibia early this week and is out 3 to 4 weeks. He hopefully will return the week of the Kansas game, but the injury sets back his development considerably.
Concordia, by the way, beat UC Irvine last night, 57-56.
The Humboldt State Lumberjacks aren't probably as good as Concordia but, if anything, it's not a big fall-off. They've been ranked in the top 20 in two different pre-season D-2 rankings.
They're coached by Tom Wood, who is in his 28th season. The ‘Jacks return four starters from a team that made the D-2 post-season for the eighth time in nine years.
Senior point guard Zac Tiedeman (6-1, 170) is the heart of the team, averaging 13 points and 4 assists per game last season. He shot 47% from three, and had a 2.4/1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He's not the fastest guy, but he's smart, doesn't make mistakes and skilled.
The other three top scorers return.
In the backcourt with Tiedeman is junior shooting guard Ernie Spada (5-11, 175), a high school teammate of Kevin Love's at Lake Oswego, Oregon. Spada is a marksmen, hitting 41% of his threes, but is also a solid passer.
Senior forward Kevin Atkins (6-6, 210) is a pretty big, strong guy who is the second-leading scorer and leading rebounder from a year ago, averaging 11 points and 4.7 rebounds.
In the post is returning starter, sophomore Kyle Baxter (6-9, 200), who was the CCAA Freshman of the Year last season. He averaged 6.9 points and 3.6 rebounds, and also is a very good passer, having the second-most assists on the team (64). Baxter isn't a true five, though, and not much of a banger, preferring to step out and face-up.
In fact, HSU doesn't really play a true post, but keeps rotating players at its three forward positions. There were six forwards that all got over 10 minutes per game last season. Sophomore David Howard (6-7, 220) is the most formidable physically, and senior Colt Mathews (6-6, 190) and sophomores Will Petty (6-4, 185) and Eliot Babcock-Krenk (6-2,200) provide toughness off the bench (Babcock-Krenk is also a former high school teammate of Love's).
The guards subbing in will be sophomore Keith Davis (6-3, 200) and senior Mike Kehrig (6-2,195), but everyone tends to blend into the wave of guard/forwards that keep rotating in. Diminutive sophomore guard David Broome (5-5, 135) will also come in to provide some relief and a change of pace.
Wood plays a lot of guys, going 10 deep, with an intent on keeping fresh bodies in to play a pressure-style of defense. They can, though, be susceptible to physical play, without much physicality inside.
HSU is a good D-2 program, and UCLA is going to have to play a great deal better than it did against Concordia last Wednesday to beat the ‘Jacks handily.