UCLA lost to Oklahoma 65-75 in the first round of the battle for Atlantis and if they don't play very well this afternoon against #5 North Carolina they will soon be in the seventh place game. The North Carolina matchup takes place tonight at 4 p.m. on AXS TV or 570 AM. (AXS TV is available in the Los Angeles area on the following channels: AT&T U-verse (Ch. 1106), Charter (Ch. 794), DirecTV (Ch. 340), DISH (Ch. 167), and Verizon FIOS (Ch. 569).)
Ironically the two teams lost in similar fashion. First on North Carolina.
North Carolina shot just 38.6 percent, including 4 of 16 from 3-point range. The Tar Heels also had a rough time at the foul line, going 18 of 32.
But UCLA was even worse shooting:
The Bruins shot 37.7 percent from the field and 42.9 percent (9-for-21) from the free throw line.
However, there is one big difference that plays in UCLA favor. Again, first North Carolina despite a sizable height advantage over unranked Butler were out rebounded 57-40 and 29-14 on the offensive glass. UCLA rebounding win was much closer 51-43 and 18-14 on the offensive glass. Of course that comes down to one player:
Kevon Looney, a 6-foot-9 forward from Milwaukee, Wis., has become the first UCLA freshman to ever record at least four double-doubles in his first five collegiate games (Kevin Love had double-doubles in his first, fourth and fifth games in 2007-08). After netting 20 points and nine rebounds in the season opener, Looney has logged four consecutive double-doubles. He totaled 16 points and 15 rebounds in UCLA's loss to Oklahoma on Wednesday.
Looney game against Oklahoma was more impressive considering his bad start.
Aside from that, the Bruins were sunk by predictable issues: youth and depth. Freshman Looney was exposed, then he adapted. He made one of nine shots in the first half but went five for six in the second.
. . . After a plodding first half, UCLA went up by eight points midway through the second after Looney came alive and Hamilton hit consecutive shots. Other coaches here have noted UCLA's explosive offensive potential.
Chrissorr has noted Looney may be a bit nervous at the start of the game but it also true he stop shooting outside and went to driving and crashing the Boards. For those grimmer UCLA fans there is this line from ESPN's "Don't miss good, late night basketball":
You can witness stellar freshman Kevon Looney attempt to salvage UCLA's uncertain season.
Looney also rates the Matchup of the night form CBS' Turkey Day Preview:
Matchup of the night: Kevon Looney vs. Brice Johnson -- Marcus Paige vs. Bryce Alford will likely tell the tale of this game, but I'm most excited to see Looney against Johnson. The two long, athletic, fluid forwards should battle against each other both in the post and in the midrange throughout the entire game, looking to rebound well and slash against each other. Looney has been excellent this season with consecutive double-doubles, and Johnson's been a solid scorer that has complemented Kennedy Meeks and Paige well. Can he continue to do so against the long Looney?
If all this is not enough, credit Looney who understands his role:
"I know that a major part of my role is to rebound. I know that our team lost a lot of rebounding from last year, so I've really tried to take on that job."
On the matchup with North Carolina CBS calls it the best game of the day:
Best game: UCLA vs. North Carolina (7 ET, AXS) -- The best game of the day comes in the consolation bracket of the Battle 4 Atlantis, as these two high-tempo offenses should provide for an exciting, up-and-down game. Both teams lost their first game of the season on Wednesday, and should want some revenge. North Carolina has a wealth of talent, but its offense showed a problem with spacing due to a lack of shooters against Butler. On the other hand, UCLA has a depth problem that could have some issues against the Tar Heels' deep talent pool. My guess is that UNC picks up a win here, as the Bruins seem to be a less-talented version of what the Tar Heels want to do.
Recent history does not bode well for UCLA:
UCLA hasn't seen the Tar Heels since an 80-70 loss Dec. 23, 2000, dropping to 3-6 in the all-time series.
The Bruins have dropped six straight and 10 of their last 11 non-conference showdowns against Top 25 foes on neutral sites.
As far as the matchups, the first thing that sticks out is while UCLA has three players averaging more than 30 minutes a game (and Norman Powell almost at 29.4), North Carolina only has one, Marcus Page. Yes, North Carolina is deep.
However, North Carolina has a major issue, outside of Page, they are shooting 6-36 for the season from three this season. They need Page on the floor all the time as he is the only three point threat. Their first game against Butler lived up to this exactly, Page played 36 minutes and went 3-10 from three. The rest of the team went 1-6.
6'9" Kennedy Meeks has been good inside this season averaging 10.8 rebounds and shooting 62%. He is the kind of big that Parker has struggled with historically and so far this year Meeks has been good at drawing fouls. 6'5" J.P. Tokoto will probably play a lot of minutes but he is more a glue guy who UCLA will want to shoot outside. It will be interesting to see if he matches up on Powell or if they put him on Bryce Alford. Bryce will likely have his toughest defensive matchup as even when North Carolina goes to its bench they will have very good athletes.
Good news for UCLA this is a game to pack in the zone as long as you keep track of Page. Bad news for UCLA is playing twice in 24 hours favors North Carolina since it has a bench. As Steve Alford says:
"We were very worried, and we still have two more games left. But, it's what has been thrown at us. We have to be able handle that. We are not a deep team yet. We've got a bench that is developing. Now, we get North Carolina in just about 24 hours. They are very deep. So, that is a challenge. Our guys will have to develop and mature through that. That is what this whole process is. It is a process for us. We know that we are not going to be the team that we'd like to be on Thanksgiving. But through the experiences that we're getting here and over our previous four games, those will help us get to where we would like to be."