Saturday, December 3, 2011

UCLA Hosts Texas In Sports Arena

UCLA Hosts Texas In Sports Arena

The series is tied 2-2 with the Longhorns winning the last two by a combined total of six points.

The Official UCLA Men's Basketball website
Dec. 2, 2011



DATE: Dec. 3, 2011
SITE: Los Angeles Sports Arena (15,000)
TIP-OFF: 1:36 p.m. (PT)
TV: FSN/Prime Ticket
TALENT: Steve Physioc (play-by-play), Marques Johnson (analyst) and Rebecca Haarlow (sideline)
RADIO (UCLA Sports Network from IMG College): AM 570 KLAC
TALENT: Chris Roberts (play-by-play) and Don MacLean (analyst)
SERIES: Series Tied 2-2


This is the fifth meeting all-time against Texas with the series tied at 2-2. The first three meetings were in Pauley Pavilion with the Bruins winning the first two by a combined 95 points (1969 and 1971) and losing the last one, 63-61, in the Pac-10/Big 12 Hardwood Series on Dec. 2, 2007. D.J. Augustin threw up a prayer from the baseline with seven seconds left and the score tied at 61. His prayer was answered by Damion James, who grabbed the airball and slammed it home for the win, ending his night with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Augustin also finished with 19 points as Texas upset then No. 2 UCLA. The Bruins had four players reach double-digits in scoring, led by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute's 14 points. Darren Collison chipped in 12 points while Kevin Love and Josh Shipp each added 11 points. The Bruins lost the last meeting as A.J. Abrams scored 31 points, including the last six of the game for No. 8 Texas, which defeated No. 12 UCLA 68-64 on Dec. 4, 2008 in Austin. Abrams broke a 62-62 tie with a 3-pointer with 2:53 to play, then made two free throws a minute later to push Texas' lead back to three. Damion James added 13 points and 13 rebounds for Texas. Darren Collison scored 22 points for the Bruins and Shipp added 15. UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland is 0-2 all-time vs. Texas.


UCLA began the season ranked 17th in the AP Top 25 and 20th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, but has fallen out of both polls. Texas is unranked in both polls, but received two votes in the Coaches Poll.


Ben Howland earned his 300th victory of his career with the 72-54 win over DePaul in the 15th Annual John R. Wooden Classic (Dec. 13, 2008). He is currently 359-185 (.660), which ranks 35th on the winningest active coaches list by percentage and 50th on the active list by victories. Howland's first career victory was his first game at Northern Arizona in 1994, a 71-69 victory over New Mexico Highlands. His 100th career victory came in his second season at Pittsburgh in the 77-65 win at home over Seton Hall (Jan. 13, 2001). His 200th win came in his third season at UCLA with the 56-37 home win over Delaware State (Nov. 19, 2005). Howland is 19-9 (.679) in the NCAA Tournament (15-6 (.714) at UCLA).


Junior guard De'End Parker has missed the last four games with patellar tendinitis and is out for the game against Texas (Dec. 3). Sophomore forward Travis Wear cut his foot while snorkeling in Hawaii (Nov. 24) and received five stitches. He missed practice on Nov. 26 but played against Pepperdine (Nov. 28). During the Pepperdine game, he had his two front teeth knocked out by an inadvertant elbow.


Up next for UCLA basketball: Saturday vs. Texas

The Bruins are seeking their first back-to-back wins of the season.

By Diane Pucin
The Los Angeles Times
December 3, 2011

When: 1:30 p.m.

Where: Sports Arena.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 570.

Records: UCLA 2-4, Texas 4-2.

Update: Texas has held its last two opponents to 48.5 points a game on 31.4% shooting but that was against Sam Houston State and North Texas. The Longhorns gave up more than 90 points to Oregon State (in a 100-95 overtime loss) and to Rhode Island (in a 100-90 win). Longhorns freshman forward Jonathan Holmes has averaged 13 points and 6.8 rebounds in his last five games. UCLA is seeking its first back-to-back wins of the season after a 62-39 victory over Pepperdine.


Stopping Texas' J'Covan Brown will be key for UCLA

The Longhorns guard averages 20.3 points and 4.8 rebounds. The Bruins play host to Texas on Saturday at the Sports Arena.

By Diane Pucin
The Los Angeles Times
9:20 PM PST, December 2, 2011

UCLA Coach Ben Howland, when asked about Texas' basketball team, had an immediate assessment.

"J'Covan Brown is as good a guy as we've seen, and that includes Kansas and Michigan," Howland said.

The Bruins (2-4) host the Longhorns (4-2) on Saturday at the Sports Arena. Stopping Brown, who averages 20.3 points and 4.8 rebounds, will be critical for UCLA.

The Bruins and Longhorns played dramatic games in 2007 and 2008, and both times Texas won.

In 2007, when UCLA was ranked either No. 1 or 2 in most polls, Damion James had a dunk with 8.3 seconds left to give Texas a 63-61 upset at Pauley Pavilion. A year later in Austin, when the Longhorns were ranked in the top and the Bruins a few spots back, Texas won, 68-64.

This year, neither team is ranked. The Longhorns suffered back-to-back losses last month, including a 100-95 decision in overtime to Oregon State.

The Longhorns are scoring 80 points a game and giving up 68.3.

"One of our other negatives is that we put the other team on the free-throw line too often, when we just try to play defense with our hands," said Brown, who is one of three guards in the Texas lineup. "But then we're young and we're still learning."

Brown said he and his teammates watched tapes of UCLA playing in Maui. "They went out and played hard and tried to play big, play inside-out," Brown said.

UCLA has four players who are 6-foot-10 in their rotation — Josh Smith, Travis and David Wear and Anthony Stover — and Texas doesn't start anyone taller than 6-7. So Brown said the key is to get easy baskets and not let UCLA do the same.

Of Smith, whose actual weight is well north of its listed 305 pounds, Brown said, "He's going to bang, he's smart and he likes throwing his weight around. Which is good when you're a big player."


Texas vs UCLA Basketball Preview

by Peter Bean on Dec 2, 2011 3:55 AM CST in Texas Longhorns Basketball, Burnt Orange Nation

Texas heads to Los Angeles to take on a big and athletic UCLA squad on Saturday.

By any measure, the UCLA Bruins basketball team has had an absolutely atrocious start to the 2011-12 season. They dropped their opener to Loyola Marymount at home (the first time the Lions have defeated UCLA since WWII), got blown out by 20 points to Middle Tennessee State -- again at home -- and then went 1-2 in the Maui Invitational, with a win over host Chaminade followed by double-digit losses to Kansas and Michigan that dropped UCLA to 1-4. The Bruins 62-39 win over Pepperdine on Monday was their first over a Division 1 school this season.

Texas fans who inspect UCLA's early-season performance may conclude that the Horns are in good shape to pick up their fifth win of the season on Saturday, even though they'll be on the road. (Note: the Bruins are playing their home games at the Sports Arena this season as Paulley Pavilion undergoes rennovations.) Maybe so, but I fear that DCBruins is right when he senses that this UCLA team is turning a quarter.

I'll be honest: I'm very concerned about this match up, and if I had to wager, I'm not sure I'd take Texas on Saturday. Unfortunately, Texas may have caught UCLA a smidge too late, and if the Bruins are in fact ready to play more closely to their talent level, we could be in trouble on Saturday, because UCLA presents us with particularly difficult match ups.

UCLA Overview

UCLA's on-court performance numbers this year are terrible thus far. The Bruins are shooting the ball horrifically (44% Effective FG%, 280th in the country), and they aren't getting to the free throw line (32.6 FT Rate, 241st nationally). They've been absolutely abysmal on the glass, grabbing just 30% of their misses (240th nationally) while allowing opponents to grab 32% of theirs (143rd nationally).

UCLA has connected on just 28% of its three-point attempts (297th nationally), while their opponents have nailed a comically high 57% of their shots from downtown (worst 3PFG% allowed in the country). It's not much better inside the arc, where UCLA's making just 45% of their twos (242nd nationally), while allowing opponents to make 50% (233rd). This is how you find yourself 2-4 with double-digit losses to LMU and MTSU.

Watching the Bruins play has been as painful on the eyes as reading through their statistical profile. In Maui the Bruins looked utterly indifferent to stopping penetration, couldn't be bothered to close out hard on shooters, and appeared to approach the act of rebounding with an attitude that any ball that didn't fall into a UCLA player's lap was not worth going after.

If that's what Texas gets from the Bruins on Saturday, we'll be just fine. The trouble, though, is that this UCLA team has absolutely no business struggling in the ways that they are. Their roster of players isn't a particularly 'skilled' bunch (average ball handlers and shooters, etc.), but it is second-to-none in terms of size and athleticism. In other words: UCLA may continue to be an average offensive team in some regards, but there's absolutely no reason for this team can't and shouldn't excel on the boards and on defense.

About that size: the Bruins starting frontcourt goes 6-10, 305 in Josh Smith and 6-10, 225 in David Wear, with 6-10, 220-pound Travis Wear and 6-8, 235-pound Reeves Nelson coming in first off the bench. UCLA features length on the perimeter as well: starting point guard Lazeric Jones is 6-1, shooting guard Jerime Anderson is 6-2, and wing Tyler Lamb is 6-5, while their first man off the bench is 6-3 Norman Powell.

At the very least, these guys should be able to rebound capably against just about anybody, and if they decide they're in the mood to get after it against Texas, they might absolutely murder us on the glass. The good news, as I mentioned, is that while their roster is loaded with size, a lot of them are raw in terms of pure basketball skills, and to this point the pieces haven't worked well together. On the inside, the Wear twins are still figuring things out at the college level, and Josh Smith is limited in the same way Dexter Pittman was, circa his junior year. Reeves Nelson is active and can put up 10 and 10 on you if you're not getting a body on him, but he's not an impact player who can make things happen on his own. On the outside, the Bruins' point guard play has been underwhelming, Tyler Lamb is a great athlete but not a good basketball player, and while Jerime Anderson can shoot it he's not great at penetrating or creating his own shot off the bounce.

If UCLA isn't systematically working the ball inside to their big men, and if their guards are settling for jump shots more often than trying to penetrate to the paint, we should be just fine. What worries me, though, is if UCLA attacks us in the paint as they should. It doesn't matter if Smith or the Wears don't make their shots if they're drawing fouls on us in the process. Likewise, I'm concerned about an aggressive Norman Powell, who can really slash to the rim on the bounce, and even Tyler Lamb if he decides to try to be aggressive, because the one thing this Texas team cannot afford is foul trouble.

Keys to the Game

1. Will UCLA have the right game plan for Texas? If you couldn't tell by now, I'm as much or more concerned about UCLA's game plan as our own. We'll get to what the Longhorns need to do, but as far as I'm concerned the first and most important question for this game will be whether UCLA understands how to attack Texas in the right ways. This is a fun and interesting young Texas team with lots of talent and really intriguing potential. But our youth and lack of frontcourt size presents a double whammy in terms of defending and rebounding without committing fouls. An opponent who fully understands that, and who has the size and athletes to force the issue, can really put Texas in a difficult situation -- either hurting us with foul trouble, or forcing us to concede various advantages to avoid it.

You hate to boil down a long and multi-faceted game to something so simple, but in this case I have no hesitation in singling it out as the defining question of the game. If UCLA attacks us to draw fouls as they can and should, we're going to be in trouble. If they don't, there's plenty of room for Texas to pick up a win.

2. What is Texas' strategy for playing defense and rebounding without committing fouls? The companion point to the above is the approach Texas takes to mitigate this concern. We can open the game in our standard pressure man defense and see what UCLA's going to do, but we can't really afford to wait to adjust if the Bruins are successfully attacking us and drawing whistles. As for what Texas can do, most straightforwardly we can play a very soft and sagging man defense. I don't recall Rick Barnes ever doing this much, if at all, but this would be a great game to defend like opponents defended us in 2009-10. Remember that? The clogged paint and 5-foot cushions on our non-shooters? There's little disincentive not to do the same to UCLA on Saturday.

Alternatively, of course, we can play a zone, which seems to be Rick's preferred adjustment after the team gets in foul trouble. I'm perfectly fine with us playing a healthy amount of zone on Saturday, but it's a little bit silly to wait to be in a bad situation where you have to. I absolutely understand the benefits to us from playing our standard pressure man defense, but at some point you have to recognize, accept, and deal with the fact that the single biggest threat to this team against big and athletic opponents is foul trouble. We don't need to wait until midway through the first half when Holmes, Kabongo, and Wangmene are all on the pine with two fouls to know this. We know this right now, going into the game.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that we can at least partly counter UCLA's size advantage by making their big guys really have to run the floor. A faster tempo is our friend on Saturday, both to give our players opportunities to score in space and to force UCLA to really have to run back to play defense. Josh Smith can't run the floor for sustained minutes any more than Dexter Pittman could. Moreover, the more UCLA has to concern itself with getting back to deal with us in transition, the less aggressively they can deploy resources to try and pound us on the offensive glass. Win-win.

Whatever we do -- and it can be a combination of each of these things and others -- we must have a smart plan for avoiding the situations that will make it exceedingly difficult for us to win this game. We absolutely must have Jonathan Holmes out there for 25+ minutes. We cannot have both Wangmene and Chapman picking up two fouls early. And we cannot afford for either J'Covan Brown or Myck Kabongo to have the kind of foul trouble that means extended first half bench time.

3. Will Texas get the performances it needs from Wangmene and Chapman? There's no need to pretend that in order to win we need Alexis Wangmene and/or Clint Chapman to be more than they're capable of, but I think most Texas fans would agree that both of these players have demonstrated a... range of performance capabilities. We're not going to suddenly get a big-time rebounding performance out of Clint Chapman, but on Saturday he's got to give us 20 quality minutes in which he scores, plays adequate defense without racking up fouls, and is at least active, if not good, on the glass. As for Wangmene, the upper end of his capabilities is a bit higher, I think -- recall his second half in Chapel Hill last season, for example -- and he's a pivotal player for us on Saturday. Wangmene isn't someone you would ever want to run offense through, but on his best night he can give you 12 points, 10 boards, and quietly effective defense across 25+ high-energy minutes. We may not need both players to deliver the absolute most that they're capable of, but we do need both to play substantially on the 'good' side of their ledger.

4. Can Texas punish UCLA with outside shooting? The law of averages makes it unlikely we'll shoot it from the outside as well as most of UCLA's other early-season opponents have, but we're going to have to make our fair share to win this game. If we're cold from the outside, we're going to have to execute our offense awfully crisply to score consistently (a tough bet for such a young team) or do our own great job of getting to the line. If it comes down to it, I'm more hopeful that we might get there by penetrating and drawing fouls, but much better would be to see Texas shooting it well from the outside in the early going. If we're on from beyond the arc, UCLA can either let us bury them like their previous opponents have or extend their defense. The former speaks for itself, while the latter enhances our chances to win by providing terrific court spacing, which in turn facilitates opportunities to penetrate and makes it harder to play help defense effectively without fouling or leaving players unguarded and wide open.

5. Is Myck Kabongo ready for this caliber of athlete? I've written extensively about why there's no need to be concerned that Texas' freshman point guard -- talented as he is -- must go through a substantial adjustment period in learning to play at the collegiate level, and that will remain true even if he struggles on Saturday. With that said, boy will it help if he's taken a serious step forward since his first two encounters with Big Six-caliber athletes. Kabongo was stymied by Oregon State and NC State in New Jersey, and the Bruins' big athletes present similar challenges. We don't need Kabongo on Saturday to suddenly explode into the elite player his talents suggest he can become -- that will come over time, assuming he's capable of getting there -- but it will be a big boost if he's more comfortable in the challenges presented, better understands how to attack them, and takes a step forward in his ability to play effectively -- solidly, if not great.

Who knows, maybe we'll win a game on the back of J'Covan Brown alone -- I will not put that past him -- but we're better off if that's not our only path to victory. The real potential of this team lies in both Brown and Kabongo being primary guards who give defenses fits. Kabongo needn't get there by Saturday, but our chances of winning will be a good deal stronger if he's ready to put effective pressure on UCLA with his play.

I'm too concerned about the potential for us to get pounded on the inside, wind up in foul trouble, or both to make a prediction on this game, but if we avoid the situations that necessarily limit us from doing what we do best, we can pick up our first big win of the season. Don't let UCLA's record fool you: this will be a big win for this young Texas team, whether the Bruins have a good year or not.

Hook 'em

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