UCLA vs. UC Irvine Basketball Preview

Stover's inside defensive presence and shot blocking have been a key to UCLA's improved defense. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Tomorrow night UCLA plays UC Irvine at the Sports Arena. UCI is better than UC Davis but once again they are not a good team. However, they do present one unique challenge, UCI is ranked number 25 in the nation in rebounding, by comparison UCLA is ranked 212. Now part of UCI's very good rebound ranking is they are a terrible shooting team, number 309 in the nation. In other words, there are a lot of opportunities to rebound when the Anteaters are shooting.

But UCLA has been very weak rebounding, especially on the defensive side. UCLA is only out-rebounding their opponents by one a game which is entirely due to the dominance against UC Davis. UCLA needs to do a good job on the boards. Our guards, led by LJ and more recently Lamb and Powell have been forced to rebound too much. Or maybe Powell or Lamb at the three can become good defensive rebounders for UCLA.

On the other hand, I like the odds of UCLA continuing their great recent defensive streak: Eastern Washington shot 25% and UC Davis shot 23%. A key to that stat may be the increased playing time for Anthony Stover. Stover is such a force on defense that he changes the game on that side of the court when he is in. He played season high 16 and 18 minutes in the last two games with 8 blocks. When Smith is out, UCLA needs to have Stover in there for defense. Of course Smith has not been too shabby blocking shots in the last two games with 6.

For UCLA becomes a better team, there are two stats to watch for the UCI game: UCI's FG % and the rebound margin. I think UCLA will do a good job on the first and I hope it will continue to improve on the second.

More on UCI after the jump.

Any discussion of UCI starts with Michael Wilder’s hair. Never mind. Wilder hit three three pointers against UCLA last year and almost led UCI to an upset win. This will be another game that will test if this UCLA can play 40 minutes. But back to Wilder. Although Wilder is only 6’2" (6'7" with the hair) he rebounds very well and is part of the reason UCI is so good at rebounding. He is even listed as a F-G not G-F and is really UCI’s starting four.

UCI’s leading scorer is off-guard Daman Starring. Starring is also a good rebounder averaging 4.6 per game. However Starring only shoots 36% from the field (he is better from 3 where he shoots 45%) and leads UCI in scoring by taking a lot of shots.

Another starter is Chris McNealy is yet another poor shooting good rebounding guard for UCI. He also leads UCI in assists but just barely. Really this is a team of off guards.

The inside game is Adam Folker and Will Davis. Davis is a freshman and strictly an inside player having not shot a three all year. He leads UCI in rebounds in only 23 minutes a game. The other post is Adam Folker. Folker is a red-shirt junior having missed last year. He is a center whose range does not extend even to the FT line as he is shooting 26% from the charity stripe.

The starting PG, Aaron Wright has been hurt but before his injury he was shooting just 32% and had more TOs than assists. The backup PG is Derrick Flowers who also has more TOs than assists.

UCI is a bad shooting team with only one inside player playing at a time. UCI does shoot okay from three and does rebound very well. Still this should be another game for UCLA to build on and a good test on whether we can continue to improve on the boards.

Go Bruins.

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