Today at noon on FSN Prime Ticket UCLA plays UC Davis at the Honda Center. In one of the symbols of this season, UCLA is in a situation that was unthinkable in the preseason, UCLA is almost out of players to play power forward and has rebounding woes. The leading defensive rebounder is PG Lazeric Jones. On Wednesday at one point Brendan Lane was the only healthy PF. Thus even in victory, UCLA was out-rebounded by Eastern Washington and those problems led to Eastern Washington staying in the game:
Instead, [David] Wear had fallen badly on his tailbone, and after the Eagles took advantage with him sidelined with a 12-4 run, Wear returned and helped UCLA put them away.
Their presence, along with that of sophomore center Joshua Smith and junior power forward Reeves Nelson, was expected to be a boon for UCLA this year, particularly on the glass. Instead, Smith has lumbered up and down the court - though Howland said Smith weighed in at his lowest point "in a while on Thursday" -while Nelson is already off the team, and the Wears are averaging just 10.7 rebounds between the two.
"We have to become a better rebounding team," Howland said of his team, which was out-rebounded 42-32 by the Eagles on Wednesday. "We need more rebounds out of our bigs. It's clear on our team, you want to get a lot of minutes, go rebound. ... We don't have Kevin Love on the boards getting every rebound."
But it was not just injuries that are causing the rebounding problems:
Still, UCLA had several players miss block-out assignments Wednesday night in a 60-47 win over Eastern Washington, which out-rebounded the Bruins by 10 overall and by 12 on the offensive boards.
"It's something we've got to continue to talk about and drill every day," Howland said.
Rebounding wouldn't seem to be an issue for a team with so much size, as UCLA has four players who are 6 feet 10.
But it is.
The Bruins (4-5) have been out-rebounded in five of their last six games.
That shouldn't be the case against UC Davis (1-8). The Aggies have been out-rebounded in all but one game this season.
Junior guard De'End Parker has missed the last seven games with patellar tendinitis and is out for the game against UC Davis (Dec. 17). Sophomore forward Travis Wear missed the Eastern Washington game (Dec. 14) with a skin infection (cellulitis) on his left foot. He did not practice on Thursday or Friday and is questionable for Saturday's game against UC Davis (Dec. 17).
UC Davis last year kept the game close against UCLA because one player was hot and that is a slight worry as UC Davis is a good three shooting team.
One of UCLA's weakest areas is guarding the three-point line, but that's UC Davis' biggest strength. The Aggies shoot 36% from beyond the arc and are averaging about nine three-point shots a game. "They really spread you out," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said. The Aggies are led by guard/forward Josh Ritchart, who is averaging 13.8 points. Their previous leading scorer, guard Ryan Sypkens, is sidelined for the season because of a knee injury; Sypkens averaged 14.5 points in the Aggies' first five games. Ten of UC Davis' 15 players are underclassmen. Sophomore guard Tyler Les is the son of UC Davis Coach Jim Les.
A bit more on the matchup:
UC Davis continues to rank among the Big West leaders in both FG pct. (4th, .424) and 3-pt pct. (3rd, .359) but is struggling on the defensive end in both categories: FG pct. (9th, .477) and 3-pt pct. (T8th, .383)..... UC Davis has made 10 3-pters in each of its last two games, matching the back-to-back double-digits of 14 against Bryant and San Diego State during the opening weekend... The Aggies shot just four free throws at Hawai'i - its second-lowest total of the season - marking the third time they've attempted less than 10.
UCLA beat the Aggies 76-48 at Pauley Pavilion on Dec. 29, 2007 and then posted a 74-67 home win on Dec. 13, 2010... Despite the most recent loss, the Aggies received a breakout effort from G/F Josh Ritchart who posted a season-high 23 points while making 9 of 12 shots, including 5 of 6 from 3-pt... UC Davis trailed 40-27 at halftime but outscored the Bruins 40-34 after the break.
Last season UCLA had a tendency to let bad teams stay close. Today UCLA has a clear talent advantage over a bad UC Davis team. Can UCLA dominate the game at the Honda Center? Will they finally dominate the boards as we thought this team would do before the season started.