Basketball Roundup and Preview: UCLA at Matt Knight Arena

The fans are still the same but the court may now be even more obnoxious for the second game at Oregon's new Matt Knight arena. Expected to be annoyed if you are watching TV tonight from the glare and if you are in the arena from the fans. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

It is not often that the arena is an issue but Oregon v. UCLA game is always a bit different.  Last year in an emotional last game against UCLA in Oregon's old arena, UCLA lost in overtime to Oregon in one of only three losses in in the last 43 of the first of a pair of PAC 10 games.  And what Bruin fan could forget the treatment of Kevin Love a few years before that (Oregon officially apologized.)  Today the story may again be the arena and fans.

First the goofy court.  The outline of fir trees, xx at mid court,   a ribbon that changes color on TV, this is just crazy.  CBH is philosophical about it and not going to complain about the court but feeling for SUC for the ridiculous pre- game festivities they had to go through:

The court is interesting. But I think when you look at it from up high, it looks really cool. But then when you’re watching the game down closer up it’s a little more grainy. But if you look at it from up above it looks really cool. .  . .

Q: One thing that seemed to be an issue was that the half-court line was difficult to distinguish. Is that something you’ll address?
Howland: Not really. Just, hey how are the officials going to distinguish. It’s going to be hard for them to make that call. Supposedly there’s two X’s. I don’t know what the rule is on that. But that’s not a big worry. I’m more worried about how we’re going to stay in front of them because they were driving, driving, driving last night, getting to the basket and creating penetrating and kick stuff..  . .

The thing that was tougher for the teams last night [USC v. Oregon], was apparently they didn’t get to warm up until five minutes before the game. They had the whole light show, lasers, the Duck coming out of the ceiling. It was a whole production. They said it was awesome, but that had to be a little bit disconcerting to not be able to have a normal warm-up.

I can't believe I led a preview with a talk about an arena, but Oregon has always been a hard place to play and Matt Knight arena is a key to this Oregon team having a chance in any game, as it was in the defeat of the "trogans." 

UCLA is coming into this game as another must win.  UCLA is making one change:

Smith came off the bench in UCLA's win over Oregon State, and Howland said he'll keep him out of the starting lineup again today.

"It's better for him psychologically to not get a foul in the first three minutes of the game," Howland said.. . .

"It's a hard matchup with (Oregon), because a lot of times they're playing five guards," Howland said.

Another sign that Lazeric is the leader of this team.  Lazeric had problem with the wrap\splint on his finger for the SUC game so he had it re-wrapped for OSU in such a way that made him effective but according to CBH:  

I think that gave him confidence going into tomorrow that it’s better. He made the first shot for us to get us going, made the last shot—that was a huge shot. He taped it differently and it’s a little more swollen today because he taped it so tight. That’s how he wanted it. That thing is not going to heal.

We need Zeke.  Zeke is the leader of this team and like a leader he is playing through pain. 

One bit of other news and what it means, the fish-wrap has the following line in one of its stories:

Howland added that he would also consider using a zone defense on occasion to help Smith avoid fouling out in games when he got into foul trouble.

His answer was not exactly that strong.  I put the odds of a zone slightly better than Blake Arnett starting. 

As far as Oregon, their team is small but don't forget the small guys beat SUC's big guys. For example Tyrone Nared.

The key, Nared said, was "being more active" and using his athleticism to his advantage. Though he is 6-8, he’s listed at 210 pounds, which doesn’t exactly describe a body that’s going to match muscle with the likes of USC’s Alex Stepheson or Nikola Vucevic, much less foes such as UCLA’s Josh Smith or Reeves Nelson.

"Dudes like that, you have to pop them before they get you ’cause they’re so big and strong," Nared said.

Against USC’s inside duo, Nared added, "I was almost as tall as them, but I wasn’t nearly as wide as them. I’ve got to use my athleticism and my speed and quickness."

That was never more evident than on the last play of the first half Thursday night, when Nared jammed in an offensive rebound that seemed to offer emotion to the crowd and the Ducks that carried over to the second half.

In other words Nelson and Smith should dominate but they can't let up or the sneaky ducks will take advantage of them.  CBH did a good job managing Reeves "diminishing returns with too many minutes" Nelson and Josh Smith on Thursday.  He will have to do the same tonight.  Hopefully he will go deep in the first half, so Smith and Nelson can be there in the second half.

At home, this game is as easy a W as it gets for this team.  On the road, look for the fans to be all over Smith and the distraction factor to be high.  Can this UCLA team continue to grow up?  UCLA was 2-6 in the second of a PAC 10 pair last year and this year is 0-1.  Furthermore, a bad OR along with USC were the only teams to sweep UCLA last year.

That said we should win. 

Go Bruins.

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