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UCLA v. MSU Preview: "Don't think it will ever happen again"

UCLA plays Montana State tonight at 7:30 Pacific.; All you local fans better go to the game as it will only be on Bank West (Jumbotron) Bruin TV. Montana State(MS) has lost four of their last five, with their only win in that span coming against Johnson and Wales a law firm NAIA school.  Montana State has also not won on the road this year.  So this game should be a cake walk right? 

Anyone want to talk about the last time we played a team from the "Treasure State?"  Let's quickly review after the jump:

  • UCLA played the other Montana 3 days after a great effort in the then biggest game of the year (Kansas) only to lose to a packed in Montana zone.  Talk about instant replay.  Montana State will play a lot of zone tonight and we just came off our biggest win of the year three days ago against BYU.
  • UCLA and Montana State have both played Cal Poly which Montana State beat by a bigger margin than UCLA.  Montana State also beat San Fransisco which recently beat Montana who beat UCLA.
  • MSU starts games well and UCLA does not. Montana State has never trailed by more than 4 in any game this year at halftime and has often broken out to a lead. If the Bruins start off thinking back to BYU or ahead to the PAC 10, look for Montana State to make them pay. 
  • Montana state is decent on defense. Opponents have shot just 42% against them. "In fact, opponents had managed to shoot better than 50% in a half twice in MSU's first 10 games".

That said this Montana State team is not as good as Montana (btw Montana's PG Will Cherry is now leading the nation in steals), but they have a few guys to watch.  If they can shut us down with their zone defense, they can have a shooters chance.

  • 282 of Montana State's 628 shots have been from three or 45% of their shots are three pointers.  That may be part of the reason they start better then they finish.  Maybe the shooters get tired. 
  • Montana State is led by Bobby Howard a 6'7" Senior Forward who averages over 5 three attempts a game.  There next biggest scorer is another Senior 6'5" Guard Erik Rush who has taken half his shots from three and is a swing.  Do you see a trend? 

But this game is really not about Montana State, this is about UCLA.  First, some unique UCLA stats.

What stat does CBH love to look at more than any other?  Would you believe charges taken (emphasis added):.

The freshman center leads UCLA with 10 charges taken, including one on Brigham Young's Jimmer Fredette in the second half that helped the Bruins fend off a Cougars surge. The play was especially gutsy considering Smith had four fouls when he planted his feet and hoped for the best.

. . . But Smith was on time, and the call went UCLA's way.

"I was so excited, you have no idea," said Coach Ben Howland, who noted earlier in the week that he preferred a charge to a blocked shot because it forced a turnoverReeves Nelson is second on the team with four charges taken and Tyler Honeycutt is third with three.

I think Nestor once said charges taken were like candy to CBH. It is a great testemant to Smith's effort and desire that as big as he is, he is hitting the deck the most.

But speaking of blocks, the UCLA team is pretty good at that category. According to ESPN, UCLA is ranked 19th in the country in blocks as a team per game (5.6 blocks per game) with Brendan Lane leading us with 1.9 a game and ranked 69th in the country.

One last stat that I have found of mild interest that I throw out there for others to comment is Free Throws Per Game Attempted by Reeves Nelson.  When Reeves attempts 6 or more Free Throws UCLA is 5-0 this season. We are 1-4 when he shoots 4 or less free throws. (We were 9-5 last year when he shot 6 or more.) Reeves needs to be aggressive on both ends of the floor and draw some fouls.  While Smith seems to be the key to the team, remember he had good games in losses, While, Honeycutt is undoubtably the most talented, he has not always been the leader. 

Reeves has been good in all our wins but bad in most of our losses.  Reeves really needs to bring it as he did this last week when he won  PAC 10 player of the week for the second time this season. 

UCLA needs to win this game because if they don't a lot of the postivie energy of the BYU game will be washed away.  This is a game the Bruins should win and if they want to make the goal of making the tourney, they need to win.  And the Bruins are saying the right things in reference to a second game against Montana: 

"Coach was saying after the game, we're playing Montana … State," freshman center Joshua Smith said Monday. "We already remember the Montana game and how bad we felt that we lost to a team at home that was set up for us to win."

The Bruins' 66-57 loss was the ultimate letdown for a team that had nearly defeated Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse three days earlier. Players blamed the outcome on several factors, including fatigue and taking the Grizzlies lightly.

"I don't think it will ever happen again," sophomore forward Reeves Nelson said.

"We're known for playing to the level of our competition, and we have to play to the level that we're capable of every night," junior guard Malcolm Lee said. "You just have to go into every game knowing that it's not about who's supposed to win but who does, and just because your name says UCLA, Connecticut, Kentucky or whatever doesn't mean it gives you an automatic win."

Let's not just say the right thing, let's do the right thing. 

Go Bruins.