UCLA v. USC Basketball Preview: Matchup's Reviewed

Coach Nikki Caldwell's UCLA team destroyed USC last night and the Men's team was in attendance:

Jasmine Dixon scored 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting and No. 12 UCLA routed Southern California 61-42 Saturday in a matchup of crosstown rivals off to their best starts in years.

. . . USC's leading scorer Briana Gilbreath missed all 12 of her shots and finished with nine points - all on free throws - while playing in foul trouble. She came in averaging 14.5 points.

The Trojans shot a 28 percent from the floor and committed 20 turnovers in front of a big crowd, including UCLA's rowdy student section that noisily taunted the Trojans for their airballs.

.. .
Coach Ben Howland and his men's team were on hand to watch UCLA's only ranked basketball team in action. The men are 9-5 overall.

Let's hope the men's team does just as well and plays defense with an intensity and effort similar to the women.  Which brings us to the matchups:

1.  Point Guard

This is the toughest matchup up to gauge.  How is Lazeric going to play?  We have heard he is shooting good in practice.   But practice is not a game. 

USC PG Maurice Jones can't shoot, he is 34% from the field and 25% from 3.  He has missed all 7 of his 3 attempts in the PAC 10.  

A healthy Lazeric Jones of UCI or WSU's games is a better player but it is hard to say now.

2.  Shooting Guard

Jio Fontan has remade the trogans.  While people will say they are an up or down team with losses to Rider and Bradford, that was before Fontan.  Since Fontan joined, SUC has lost twice to Kansas and Washington on a buzzer beater and in OT. He has hit half his 3 pointers and is playing the best of career and becoming SUC's number 2 player.

Malcolm Lee has been a great defender frustrating Jimmer Fredette and Klay Thompson.  He should be able to do similarly against Fontan.  The question is Malcolm Lee's offense and leadership.  Lee has been better on offense recently but definitely can wear out chasing the other team's leading scorer.

3.  Small Forward

Tyler Honeycutt had his best game at Kansas and their weakest defender was his man.  SUC it is the opposite.  Marcus Simmons is a good defensive team's best defender.  Will Honeycutt step up or disappear?   UW's Holiday shut down Honeycutt.  

There has been a "pro buzz" about Honeycutt this week.  Will Honeycutt step up and be aggressive, justifying the buzz? Or will he be passive?  The only thing for sure is Simmions will not make it easy for him.

4.   Power Forward

Will Reeves Nelson change from being the spark that ignites runs to the consistent engine?  This will be a tough game for him.  CBH calls Nikola Vucevic the best or second best player in the PAC 10.  He has been the key to SUC's offense.  If Nelson is truly committed to playing all out on defense, his effort will be rewarded tonight.  This may be the biggest defensive match-up of the game.

5.  Center

How long is Josh Smith on the court?  If he is on the court we win the match-up as we do every night.  However, Smith is only averaging 19.8 minutes a night.  UCLA will be using him as a plug (instead of hedging) to try to keep him in the game and out of foul trouble.  His likely matchup, Alex Stephenson, will likely stay on the court.  He has played between 34 and 43 minutes in his last 7 games.  He is a very good defender and rebounder.  However, Smith's problems have been with a zone (occasionally) and fouling. 

INTANGIBLES

SUC is at home.  That will certianly help USC with the wildly inconsistent PAC 10 reffing. But if the SPTRs make this game a foul fest, not sure how that breaks.  As discussed yesterday, USC does not really have a bench.  If both benches have to play a lot of minutes, it may be an advantage to UCLA.  But if UCLA gets into foul trouble and SUC doesn't, things do not look good.

COACHING

CBH is an incredible 38-3 in the first of a pair of PAC 10 games.  However, he is 2-6 on games with 6 or more days rest the last two years, including the 2 losses to SUC last year.  Despite the latter stat, I think UCLA will be ready for this game.

My gut says CBH will have UCLA ready and we will win if things go according to plan.  By that is a big "IF."  What if Jones is still affected by the finger? What if Smith gets in foul trouble?  What if the refs put Nelson in foul trouble and Nelson does like Honeycutt last game and stops playing D? I don't feel good about this factor.  Smith or Honeycutt need to step it up this game and not wait for Nelson.   The PAC 10 is a league where it is tough to win on the road.

There are a lot of variables and no margin for error.  The one thing that we better not be talking about after the game is UCLA's lack of effort during the game.

Go Bruins and Beat SC!

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