Tonight, the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team is in Hawai’i for a game against BYU as the Maui Jim Maui Invitational begins. The Bruins are playing in the fourth game of the day. So, while tip-off is scheduled to begin at 8:30 pm PT, the actual tip-off time could be delayed if the 6 pm game between Kansas and Chaminade runs long. Tonight’s Bruin game will air on ESPN2.
Like UCLA, the BYU Cougars are under a new head coach. Mark Pope comes to BYU after four seasons at Utah Valley where he compiled a .579 winning percentage. So far this season, Pope’s Cougars are 3-2.
The Cougars are led by senior guard TJ Haws who is averaging 12.0 points per game, but Haws doesn’t lead the team in scoring. That distinction belongs to senior guard Jake Toolson, a transfer who followed Pope from Utah Valley. Toolson is averaging 16.0 points per game. While Haws has hit just 4 of 24 three-point attempts, Toolson has made 11 of 24 attempts for a 45.8% three-point percentage.
Junior Alex Barcello is the Cougars’ third starting guard. Barcello is averaging 11.2 ppg and he has made half of his three-point tries. So, the Bruins will need to guard these three guys on the perimeter because they all shoot a lot of threes. While Barcello has tried just 12 shots beyond the arc, he makes up for his lack of attempts with his accuracy.
The Cougars’ starting five round out with a pair of forwards in senior Dalton Nixon and sophomore Kirby Lee. Both are averaging 7.6 points per games. Nixon leads the team in rebounds with 5.0 per game.
Look for sophomore guard Connor Harding to be one of the first guys off the bench. Harding is the only bench guy averaging more than 20 minutes per game with good reason. With averages of 8.0 ppg and 4.6 rebounds per game, Harding is averaging more points than Nixon or Lee and he is second on the team in rebounds. Senior Zac Seljaas will likely be the next guy off the bench after Harding. With an average of 18.7 minutes per game, Seljaas is the only other Cougar averaging more than 10 minutes per game.
After Thursday’s loss to Hofstra, UCLA will need to do a better job playing defense for a full 40 minutes and BYU presents a challenge because of their three-point shooting. To win tonight, the Bruins are going to have to stop BYU’s outside shooting.
If UCLA can do that, the Bruins will win easily. If they don’t, they may end up in the tournament’s consolation bracket.