UCLA heads into another key nonconference game with a no-nonsense attitude this Saturday as it takes on the University of Texas. This UCLA Bruins team knows that it must gain momentum before its final key nonconference game against No. 12, University of Missouri.
Most importantly, it’s a crucial game for UCLA to battle back after losing a close game to San Diego State last Saturday. Despite their disappointing start to the season, the Bruins have rebounded from each loss with a win, but they’ll have to come out strong in order to prevent the Texas Longhorns from granting them their first back-to-back losses.
Texas, like UCLA, is a young team, which will make for some exciting yet unrefined basketball. The Bruins are the favorite purely based on talent, but as we’ve seen this season in particular, talent doesn’t guarantee wins.
Here’s a preview of what you need to know and look for in Saturday’s matchup.
Freshman forward Ioannis Papapetrou
In the Texas Longhorns’ first eight games, head coach Rick Barnes has arranged his players in four different starting lineups, which makes it unclear which lineup he’ll throw at the UCLA Bruins.
Texas’ approach has varied from a traditional setup to recently enacting a three-guard set, which has incorporated freshman guard Demarcus Holland into the starting lineup.
However, UCLA’s lack of physicality and size in the frontcourt should encourage Coach Barnes to start the game with three in the frontcourt.
F Jonathan Holmes
F Ioannis Papapetrou
C Cameron Ridley/ Prince Ibeh
G Javan Felix
G Julien Lewis
Freshman guard Jordan Adams
The UCLA Bruins have also seen their variety of lineups this season. No only has Ben Howland been testing out different lineups, but he has also had the pleasure of incorporating highly recruited freshman Shabazz Muhammad in the starting lineup.
With Muhammad working his way into the lineup, Coach Howland is now sending the Bruins on the court in a three-guard set, with freshmen Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson and senior transfer point guard Larry Drew II as the guards.
However, Muhammad plays more like a guard and is still working on finding his legs on defense, so the Bruins are truly running a four-guard set with Travis Wear as the lone forward.
F Shabazz Muhammad
F Travis Wear
G Jordan Adams
G Kyle Anderson
G Larry Drew II
Sheldon McClellan (G): At 16.4 points per game, McClellan is the University of Texas’ leading scorer by a long-shot, and is ambitious from three-point range. This makes McClellan a potential lethal weapon against the UCLA Bruins if Coach Howland brings the team out in the same 2-3 zone he enacted against San Diego State.
McClellan has relinquished the starting position that he held at the beginning of the season but has had the same influence on his team coming off the bench, recently posting 19 points and draining four out of five three-pointers against Mississippi State.
Cameron Ridley (C): The University of Texas’ highest-ranked recruit, the 6’9”, 270-pound freshman has had a substantial impact on the team, although he has yet to exhibit his best offensive play.
Although Ridley is a few inches shorter than his UCLA counterparts, he will give Travis Wear and David Wear a hard time on both ends of the court. He’ll not only challenge them for rebounds but he is also the team’s leader in blocks (2.6 per game) and is a pesky defender.
Julien Lewis (G): Since being granted a starting position in his sophomore season, the 6’3” guard has been a key contributor to the Texas Longhorns and has become their No. 2 scorer behind Sheldon McClellan
The UCLA Bruins must keep an eye on Lewis on defense, as he is an efficient three-point shooter that may break UCLA’s recent 2-3 zone. Since becoming a starter, Lewis has drained more than half of his threes (52%), which may force Coach Howland to scratch the zone and switch to a man defense
Shabazz Muhammad (F):
As expected, touted recruit Shabazz Muhammad has made an immediate impact on UCLA since joining the team after an NCAA eligibility investigation was cleared three games into the season.
While the 6’6” forward has put up no less than 13 points in his five games as a UCLA Bruin, he is still acclimating to the college game, and has had his share of freshmen follies.
As he continues to mold his game to college play, the Bruins hope that the process occurs at lightning speed.
Jordan Adams (G):
Overshadowed by Top 5 recruits Kyle Anderson and Shabazz Muhammad, Adams has been a pleasant surprise from UCLA’s strong freshman class.
The 6’5” guard has been UCLA’s leading scorer since his first game in blue and gold, averaging a team-leading 17.8 points per game after putting up an impressive 21 points in his UCLA Bruins debut.
Better yet, Adams is a confident, accurate shooter who attacks the basket with a fervor that UCLA hasn’t seen for quite some time.
Kyle Anderson (G):
Freshman Kyle Anderson has played a unique role with the UCLA Bruins this season as a forward, guard, and back-up point guard; however, he hasn’t been exactly what the Bruins had expected of the Top 5 recruit.
In his first eight college games, the 6’9” New Jersey native has made some nifty passes and corralled many rebounds, but he has only averaged 6.6 points per game and has often been sloppy with the ball.
He’s been tagged with the fitting nickname “Slow-Mo” for his deliberate movements on the court, and while he has great court vision, his slow movements often lead to turnovers as they did in UCLA’s most recent fall to San Diego State, in which he surrendered the ball five times.
If Anderson can perform as he did in UCLA’s game against the University of Georgia (9 PTS 9 REB 3 AST), the Bruins will emerge victorious against the Texas Longhorns.
Although the Texas Longhorns’ season wasn’t as hyped as UCLA’s was, the Longhorns had high expectations for this season with a strong freshman recruiting class that included top center Cameron Ridley, and have suffered similar disappointment to UCLA.
Coach Rick Barnes continues to settle on a starting lineup for his young but talented team after the Longhorns dropped back-to-back games in the Maui Invitational to Chaminade and the Pac-12’s USC.
In its most recent game, Texas was decimated by No. 15 Georgetown University by 23 points, which makes the team’s matchup against the previously Top-25 ranked UCLA an important win for them as they prepare for tough games against No. 20 University of North Carolina and No. 19 Michigan State to conclude nonconference play.
After a stunning 5-3 start to a season in which UCLA was predicted to win its conference and do major damage in the NCAA Tournament, the UCLA Bruins look to avoid their first back-to-back losses following a loss to No. 23 San Diego State.
While the University of Texas is a young team like UCLA, it’s nevertheless a very talented team that reserves the potential to give the Bruins a hard time, and should thus not be underestimated.
While beating Texas would not be monumental in the overall scheme of college basketball, a victory is crucial for the Bruins’ momentum as they approach the final stretch of nonconference play, which will culminate in a tough matchup against No. 12, University of Missouri.
-The University of Texas has only two upperclassman (Dean Melchionni and Andrew Dick), who have played a total of six combined minutes this season. The remainder of the team is comprised of seven freshmen and five sophomores.
-The Texas Longhorns are currently tied for No. 8 in blocks (7.25 per game) in the country. UCLA is tied for 121st with 4 blocks per game.
-Both teams have lost to Georgetown University. Texas lost 64-41, trailing 30-17 at the half; UCLA was defeated 78-70, down 31-29 at the half.
When: Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012; 2:15 p.m. PT
Where: Reliant Stadium (Houston, Texas)
TV Broadcast: ESPN