UCLA vs. Arizona: Closing Out Old Pauley With a Team Effort

Today is the last game at "Old Pauley".  Never again will the Bruins play in this same hallowed hall as Pauley will be remodeled and improved for the future.  It is hard not to think of past teams, just as it hard to write a review that will do justice of game where there is so much to think about outside the match-ups. 

But what a game we have!  The Bruins are back from the depths of the Serbian despair of last year to playing for first place today at 1 p.m. PST.  The Arizona Wildcats are a top ten team featuring one of the best players in the country. The two traditional powers in the Pac-10 are once-again dueling for the conference title.

Of course, the realists will point out that it is hard for us to win the title as we go to Washington next week and Arizona plays the Oregon schools at home.

But for today it is all about first place.  This game may come down to a few simple things.  The UCLA team of five players versus the Arizona superstar Derrick Williams.  Can the top UCLA five stay on the floor because, while Arizona has the best player, they also have the better bench.  But most of all, the key question is how many minutes of "Ben Ball style" defense will UCLA play?  As the Trogans showed earlier this week, stifling defense is how U$C beat the Mildcats Thursday night.

 

Williams scored well less than his average of 19.7 points per game, second best in the league, and it was the first time he was held to single digits this season. He grabbed 11 rebounds while playing with a wrap protecting his bandaged right pinky finger.

"He's the best player in the Pac-10, and you want to do better than him," Vucevic said. "We did a good job as a team stopping him."

The Wildcats were held below their Pac-10-leading averages in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and points scored on the road. Williams and Lamont Jones, who were a combined 12-for-12 from the floor against USC in a win Jan. 29, were a combined 6-for-23 in the rematch.

. . .

"It comes down to the fact that we had two assists on 19 field goals," Miller said. "It's alarming to have two assists."The Wildcats fell to 1-4 at Galen Center. The Trojans, whose field goal percentage defense of .411 is second best in the league, held Arizona to 36 percent.

The Wildcats are 22nd in the nation in FG%.  In their last loss before the USC game, they shot only 40% against Washington.  CBH favorite post game stat may be relevant again tonight. 

BACKCOURT MATCH-UP

Zeek said in the pre-game show before Arizona State that he was not going to have tape on his finger.  Regardless, apparently he is feeling better as he had his best game against the Sun Devils and showed what a difference his presence as a healthier PG can make with 10 assists and 0 TOs.  But of course Zeek's worst game was on the road against Arizona.

The last time these teams met, Arizona cruised past UCLA, 85-74. In that game UCLA's Reeves Nelson made 10 of 12 shots and Malcom Lee made six of 12, but the remainder of the Bruins combined to go eight-for-34 (23.5 percent) from the field.

. . .

Jones acknowledged that he was a little too excited to play against Arizona's Jesse Perry -- Jones' teammate at John A. Logan College last season.

"I feel like I’ll be more calm before the game," Jones said. "I feel like if I’m too up or too high then I might not do as well. So right now I’m trying to stay even with that."

Hopefully this Arizona preview has it right as Wildcat PG MoMo Jones has not shown as much recently and SG Fogg, while killing UCLA in the past, has been down a bit. 

Who has the edge? UCLA. The Bruins at home are as tough lately as the Wildcats at McKale Center — winning seven straight — and a lot of that has to do with the stable guard play. Sound defense starts with the guards and UCLA has allowed only one opponent to score more than 60 points in the last seven games at Pauley Pavilion. Lazeric Jones, Lee and Anderson combine for 60 steals. If the UA guards do not take care of the ball and fail to generate offense, it will be a long, ugly game.

FRONT COURT MATCH-UP

Is Williams hurting?  Or was it Kevin O'Neill's complaint about the SPTRs preferential treatment of Williams that made a difference?  (Emphasis in original.)

Who has the edge?: UCLA. Williams did not look 100 percent mentally and physically against USC. It could be that Kevin O’Neill’s head games worked after the USC coach claimed the refs gave Williams preferential treatment. He now has to snap out of it against a bull in Nelson. Perry is improving but is not up to the caliber of Nelson and Honeycutt yet.

BENCH COMPARISON

I did not watch the game but if Williams is hurting that could make the difference.  The Arizona preview picks a UCLA win in a low scoring game.  I think that makes sense.  Bleacher Report picks an Arizona win which also makes me feel better given their record of incompetence.  But one thing all the previews agree is that Arizona has the better bench.

There is very little drop-off when Sean Miller starts to sub. It's not rare for Miller to use a 10 or 11 player rotation.

Kevin Parrom (pictured), Jamelle Horne and Jordin Mayes bring lots of punch off of the bench, and are all capable of playing major minutes for Arizona.

 

UCLA relies much more on their starting five than Arizona. . . .

Big Advantage: Arizona

COACHING MATCH-UP

It is sometimes interesting to see the outside perspective.  The Arizona preview says things in stronger terms than can be rationally supported but it is interesting to hear:

Quick poll: Who deserves the Pac-10 Coach of the Year if the ballot was held today? Miller, UCLA’s Ben Howland, Oregon’s Dana Altman, Cal’s Mike Montgomery, USC’s Kevin O’Neill or Washington’s Lorenzo Romar? Howland could come out of nowhere and win the honor if the Bruins beat Arizona today and sweep the Washington schools next week. UCLA is buying into Howland’s defensive demands and nobody has played as dominating as the Bruins in the last six weeks (not even Arizona during an eight-game winning streak). People were actually calling for Howland’s job early this season, especially after UCLA lost 66-57 to Montana at Pauley Pavilion in early December. Advantage: Howland.

I wish they were buying into "Howland's defensive demands" for 40 minutes.  If the Bruins buy into the Howland defensive system for close to 40 minutes today, I think they will win. 

INTANGIBLES

First, the worry and the ridiculous stat:

RECENT HISTORY: Arizona coasted to an 85-74 win against visiting UCLA earlier in the season. Several members of the Bruins, who were seen laughing on the bench, were berated for their demeanor by ESPN analyst Jay Bilas during the broadcast. Coach Ben Howland also added how disappointed he was by their behavior after the game.

KEY STATISTIC: Oddly, the Bruins are 0-3 in Sunday games but a perfect 7-0 on Saturday. UCLA is 14-2 at home.

This is not just the last home game of the season it is the last home game at Pauley.  The Bruins need to honor the legacy of the players, the program and most of all Coach.

"It’s great playing there," said junior guard Malcolm Lee. "Going on the court every time and just looking up and seeing all the banners and stuff. It’s a real historical arena and I just want to end the last two games playing in there with wins."

. . .

"I’m bummed that I’m not going to get to play in the new arena, but I feel good that I actually got to play in there at all," Jones said. "It’s such a great place. You can see the history when you walk in, you can just feel it in the air. It was a great experience to be able to play in there at least once."

. . .

"I feel privileged to be able to play there for two years," Nelson said.

Or this one:

"It's bigger than any player out there wearing a jersey," sophomore forward Tyler Honeycutt said.

UCLA is breaking out retro uniforms from the 1963-64 team, the first to win a national title under John Wooden. Some Bruins will wear matching fluorescent yellow sneakers that they debuted against Arizona State on Thursday.

. . .

As far as Coach Ben Howland is concerned, there is one person missing who could complete the experience: Wooden, who died in June at 99.

"I'm really sorry that Coach isn't going to be here," Howland said. "I mean, that really in a way hurts because I would have loved for him to be here for this last game in the building that he opened. … But I'm sure he'll be watching down on us."

Make Coach proud Bruins.  Beat the Mildcats and close out "Old Pauley" with the Bruins in first place.

 

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