Brittany Page, a Bruin senior (from San Diego) majoring in English sent us the following preview helping all of us zero in on the Hilltoppers. Brittany is graduating next quarter in June. Enjoy. GO BRUINS. -N
Top-seeded UCLA takes on No. 12 seeded Western Kentucky in the Western Regional semifinal in Phoenix, Arizona on Thursday.
The Bruins rallied behind Kevin Love and Darren Collison's combined 40 points, to defeat a dangerous Texas A&M team, 51-49, on Saturday to advance to the next round of the NCAA basketball tournament.
Western Kentucky, making its first NCAA appearance in five years, has been one of the surprises of this year's tournament. They upset No. 5 seeded Drake, 101-99, in the first round when senior guard Ty Rogers hit a deep three pointer at the buzzer. In the second round, the Hiltoppers beat No. 13 seeded University of San Diego, 72-63, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 15 years.
The Hiltoppers (29-6) press teams in hopes of forcing an up-tempo game and are known for their ability to expose and defeat opponents by shooting plenty of three pointers.
As a team, Western Kentucky is 18th in the nation in three point percentage shooting 39.4 percent, with four players shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc. UCLA Assistant Coach Scott Garson told me this morning in a phone interview:
"We have to get back in transition and have to guard guys who not only can shoot the three very effectively but who can beat you off of the dribble. So we will have our hands full but I think our team is very excited about this matchup."
This will be the first time UCLA plays against Courtney Lee, but his game is similar to a player they faced in the PAC-10, James Harden of Arizona State per Garson:
"Lee has the ability to shoot threes, score off the dribble and rebound like Harden."
While the Hilltoppers will attempt to speed up the pace of the game UCLA will try and maintain their control of the tempo. Here is Garson on tempo:
"Darren Collison is a great point guard and he knows when we want to push and when we want to slow it down and run our offense."
While the Hiltoppers have scored an average of 85.5 points a game, their defense has not been as successful, allowing opponents to average 81 points per game.
The main advantage the Bruins have over the Hiltoppers is in the low post with 6-foot-11 freshman sensation and PAC-10 player of the year, Kevin Love playing underneath.
The Hilltoppers will use 6-foot-9, 190-pound sophomore Jeremy Evans and 6-9, 260-pound D.J. Magley to guard Love. Once again from Garson on their inside game:
"We expect them to do a good job down in the post."
Both teams have proven themselves thus far in the tournament and this matchup will be nothing short of a great game. Here is Garson one last time on the key for tomorrow night:
"We have to play great defense and make it a battle of the boards. The key for this game will be taking good shots, our shot selection and rebounding."
- Brittany Page