Man the Athletic Director who made this schedule stinks. I am not talking about UCLA, but tonight’s opponent Long Beach State. Long Beach State will be playing its fourth game in 6 days including a road trip to altitude to Colorado State. LBSU will also be playing its second game in 24 hours when it tips off at Pauley against UCLA at 6:06 p.m.
For its part UCLA host its third big West team this season. To be clear LBSU is much better than CSUN but is still only seventh in the conference and on paper slightly worse than Cal Poly. However, I really think UCLA caught a bit of break catching Long Beach State with possibly tired legs. For LBSU has one serious weapon to threaten UCLA, they shoot 41% from three. Moreover in their win last night they shot 56% going 14-25 from three.
LBSU is led by exactly the type of player that almost beat UCLA single-handedly in the UNLV game, 6’6"Nick Faust. Faust is shooting 46% from three (on 57 attempts). Faust is a transfer from Maryland where he was all Freshman ACC and started many games. Going into this season his career high was 5 three pointers against North Carolina. Faust also leads LBS in steals with 2 a game.
In a sense Faust is the perfect player to mess with UCLA’s defense and shred its zone. He will not be intimidated by Pauley with his ACC and Maryland experience. The only plus is the scheduling break really matters here because you have to wonder about Faust’s legs. This will be a game when Hamilton will be important but for his defense.
Faust represents an important statistical anomaly, he shoots better from three than two. Beyond Faust, LBSU is one of those rare teams that almost shoots better from three (41%) than two (42%).
Which may sum up this game. The opposite of the Kentucky Strategy may be necessary. LBS to win will have to bomb it by three. The rest of the team is also capable from three.
5’8" Justin Bibbins is the point guard who is exactly what you expect. He is quick and very good at the drive and dish. He is not good at the drive and finish. He shoots 35% from 2 and 36% from three. Bibbins is not as good as Monmouth’s little point guard or Kentucky’s Ulis but he is good enough that Holiday can’t fall asleep on him.
The third guard is 6’3" AJ Spencer. Spencer does not like to shoot as much which is good since he shoots 53% from 2 and an incredible 55% from three. Bryce cannot fall asleep on him.
Long Beach State’s starting backcourt all shoot better from three than two. This is a game UCLA really needs to play man and to get out on the shooters.
And it does not end there, the sixth man and second leading scorer is 6’6" Travis Hammond who probably doesn’t start because he does shoot better from 2 than 3 but only slightly, 43% to 42%. I am joking but the point is UCLA will not get much of a break the whole game at the three point line.
Of course, there is a reason LBS is 5-4 right now. Hammond and Faust are also the team’s second and third leading rebounders. The leading rebounder, 6’7" Gabe Levin is the starting four and he does not shoot well 41%, turns the ball over a lot (2.6 per game, the most on the team). The starting Center, Roschon Prince, is only 6’6" and washed out of USC. He is averaging a pathetic 3 rebounds a game.
So really this is an easy but mildly dangerous game for UCLA. Mildly dangerous because UCLA has to play smart and use their advantages. It should be a big game for Tony Parker and Thomas Welsh. Related though this is nightmare game for those two on the zone wing. This looks to be the worst game to go 3-2 zone as Faust and/or Hammond could seemingly make UCLA pay for Welsh or Parker down low on the wing. More importantly the defensive effort needs to continue. It is okay to get beat off the dribble where you have help inside with Welsh and Parker. It is not okay to let them shoot outside uncontested.
Of course there is always the possibility of a UCLA let down. There is no excuse for that as personally I would be more worried for LBS have tired legs for game 4 in 6 days and 2 in 24 hours.