The UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team (10-7, 2-1 Pac-12) winds up the third game of it’s three-game road trip tomorrow afternoon in a nationally televised game against that other basketball team across town.
The Bruins and the Southern Cal Trojans (9-8, 2-2 Pac-12) will tip of tomorrow at 1 pm PT at the Galen Center. CBS will broadcast the game across the nation. The Bruins have done pretty well in the twelve games they have played against Southern Cal at the Galen Center, prevailing in eight of those games, to just four losses.
From the standpoint of Southern Cal, the big question coming into the game this week is whether mercurial freshman Kevin Porter Jr. will play after head coach Andy Enfield suspended Porter indefinitely and said that the Trojans would re-evaluate Porter’s role within the program. He has already sat for one game. Is that sufficient punishment for the “very disappointing” “conduct issues” described by Enfield? It’s Southern Cal-style justice, so expect Porter to suit up against the Bruins tomorrow.
UCLA Interim Head Coach Murry Bartow expects Porter to play and is planning accordingly. When asked about whether the Bruins would prepare with Porter in mind, Bartow responded that they were “definitely preparing for him to play.”
Even if Porter doesn’t play, the Trojans expect to get plenty of support from senior forward Bennie Boatwright, who leads the Trojans in scoring, averaging 17.1 PPG. Junior forward Nick Rakocevic almost averages a double-double, with 14.9 points and 9.5 boards per game. Both forwards have size and it will be interesting to see how Enfield tries to use those guys to break down the Bruin zone defense.
In the wake of the Oregon State loss, the Bruins need to improve in three key areas:
1. In the words of Coach, they need to be quick but not hurry. Bartow wants them to play fast but instead of being quick, they are hurrying, resulting in an inordinate amount of turnovers over the last few games;
2. They need to learn how to be unselfish on the break. Bruin fans are sick and tired of hero ball when a simple bounce pass for an uncontested layup is RIGHT THERE and ignored by the ball handler on the break. GIVE IT UP. The Bruins will instantly stop missing so many bunnies; and
3. Improve their free throw shooting. Would it hurt these guys to each shoot 100 free throws after every practice until progress is made? UCLA has lost by such wide margins in almost all of its losses so this really hasn’t bitten the Bruins in the rear end...yet. If they don’t improve a four-point loss with a 50% FT average for the game is coming and it will prove costly.
Southern Cal games are always fun, even though I would argue that they are not are true rivals in basketball. It’s certainly always fun to win at the Galen Center. After all, they are “just $c.”