Missouri vs. UCLA: Complete Game Preview
UCLA has gained momentum in the month of December after a disappointing loss to now-ranked San Diego State.
While the Bruins have improved to 9-3 on the season, they will face their most important nonconference game this Friday against No. 7 Missouri, as the outcome of the game will affect the team’s momentum heading into Pac-12 conference play.
Unlike UCLA, who has struggled to meet high expectations in the early season, Missouri has steamrolled through its nonconference schedule and boasts a 10-1 record heading into Friday night’s showdown in Pauley Pavilion.
Although the Tigers faltered against their first real challenge of the year in a blowout loss against No. 2 Louisville, they justified their ranking in the Top 10 with a neck-and-neck win over No. 10 Illinois in their most recent game.
It’s set to be an entertaining game, and an important one for both teams as they look to sustain momentum approaching the beginning of conference play.
F Laurence Bowers
F Alex Oriakhi
G Phil Pressey
G Keion Bell
G Jabari Brown
If you’ve seen this Tigers team play this season, it wouldn’t surprise you to learn that four of its five starters average double figures in scoring, led by versatile senior forward Laurence Bowers’ 16.9 points per game.
With the addition of redshirt-sophomore Oregon transfer Jabari Brown, who was granted NCAA eligibility at the conclusion of the past fall semester, Missouri is a dangerous team with its three-guard set.
F Travis Wear
G Kyle Anderson
G Jordan Adams
G Larry Drew II
Whereas Missouri is a team that spreads its scoring throughout the lineup, UCLA relies heavily upon its star freshman Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad for the bulk of its scoring.
Although the Bruins technically run a three-guard set with Muhammad complementing Travis Wear as a forward, the highly recruited Muhammad plays like a guard on offense, which modifies UCLA into a four-guard set.
However, 6’9” freshman guard Kyle Anderson takes the form of a forward on defense with his post presence and many rebounds, so the Bruins are truly two different teams on either end of the court.
Key Players: Missouri—Alex Oriakhi
UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi has the opportunity to be a game-changer in this game. To put it simply, he’s a dominant player in the post who has the chance to beat up on the Wear brothers, who have yet to implement an effective way to utilize their height as an advantage.
In his senior season, Oriakhi is averaging nearly a double-double (10.8 PPG 9.1 RPG) and has recorded a block in all games but one. At 6’9”, 255 lbs. he’s an impressive athlete who thrives on the opposition’s weaknesses.
Key Players: Missouri—Jabari Brown
Jabari Brown has only played two games for Missouri after recently being cleared for eligibility, but he has displayed an immediate impact on the team in those two games.
In the Tigers’ most recent win over Illinois, which was the first time he had been in a starting lineup since transferring from Oregon last November, Brown posted 18 points and knocked down 3-of-7 from beyond the arc.
If Brown keeps his current pace, he’ll make the game a nightmare for whomever is guarding him and completely disassemble UCLA’s man-to-man defense.
Key Players: Missouri—Laurence Bowers
It’s no secret that senior guard Laurence Bowers likes to shoot. He has taken the most shots on the team by a wide margin (136 FGA equals 12 per game).
An ambitious shooter can be either a blessing or a curse for a team, but there has been no debate for Missouri—Bowers’ quick-triggered shooting is a blessing.
The 6’8” forward is shooting an incredible 57.4 percent from the field and 56.5 percent from three-point territory, which not only makes him one of the most efficient shooters in the nation but also makes him a huge threat to UCLA in this particular game.
Unless he ends his season-long streak of shooting 50 percent or higher from the field, Bowers is set to give the Bruins a tough time.
Key Players: UCLA—Kyle Anderson
Before he set foot in Pauley Pavilion, Kyle Anderson was touted as one of the best players in this year’s freshman class; however, reality has deflated that notion.
While the 6’9” guard has demonstrated immense potential to this point with his nifty jukes and sharp court vision, he hasn’t had quite the impact on UCLA as the team had been hoping.
Coming off a career-high 20-point, 17-rebound performance in the Bruins’ most recent win over Fresno State, Anderson needs to come out strongly from the onset of Friday night’s game in order for UCLA to stand a chance at winning the game.
Key Players: UCLA—Larry Drew II
UCLA has grown accustomed to freshmen guards Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad putting up solid scoring numbers every game, so Larry Drew II’s role on this Bruins team doesn’t involve scoring but rather entails facilitating open shots for the aforementioned top-scoring guards.
While Drew has accomplished that by averaging 8.5 assists per game, it is his general demeanor, not solely his offensive play, that has a huge impact on the team as UCLA’s only senior.
If Drew brings the same intensity to Friday night’s game that he brought to his dynamic performance against Long Beach State, the Bruins will have a much better chance to beat this tough Missouri team.
Key Players: UCLA—Travis Wear
While Travis Wear has significantly improved in his second season as a Bruin, he still hasn’t discovered an effective way to exploit his height and has subsequently been an asset to his team in the paint.
What makes him a key player, then? Well, exactly that: physicality.
If Wear is able to keep up with the physical Alex Oriakhi, then the Bruins will be much better off; conversely, they won’t stand a chance against Missouri if he can’t.
Ben Howland does have other forwards that he can play in Travis’ brother David and freshman Tony Parker, but he prefers to keep T. Wear in as long as possible even if he is physically outmatched.
After losing its only game of the season to a tough Louisville squad, Missouri has won its last six games, including handing No. 10 Illinois its first loss of the season in the Tigers’ most recent nonconference game.
Missouri won that game by spreading its scoring around the floor, which has been a recurring achievement for this year’s team. Four out of five of the Tigers’ starters scored 12 or more points in the Illinois game, a feat that would ensure a win against UCLA if repeated.
While Friday night’s game is Missouri’s penultimate nonconference game, the team nevertheless needs to remain focused and overpower UCLA not only to gain momentum heading into SEC conference play but also to reinforce the Tigers’ confidence in beating challenging opponents after losing to Louisville.
It’s not a must-win for Missouri, but it’s a can’t-lose.
UCLA has been the talk of college basketball this season, but not for the reasons that the team would have expected heading into a season in which it boasted the best recruiting class in the nation.
However, amid the team’s struggles to meet expectations and rumors that head coach Ben Howland may not make it through the season, the Bruins have improved to 9-3 on the season and have notched four straight wins.
Better yet, the highly touted freshmen that brought the uncontainable hype to Westwood are coming off a stellar game against Fresno State in which they accounted for a total of 72 points (79 percent of the team’s scoring) and all posted over 20 points.
While the Bruins have accrued significant momentum in December, they will have to bring their best game against a hot Missouri team that will easily overpower them if they can’t hold their own on both ends of the court.
More importantly for UCLA, Friday night’s game marks the team’s final nonconference game, which makes its crucial in establishing momentum for Pac-12 play.
Five Focal Points to Victory: Missouri
-Dominating the post by challenging UCLA’s forwards
-Getting Laurence Bowers open shots, especially on the perimeter
-Controlling the boards
-Setting ball screens to break down UCLA’s man defense
-Keeping the ball away from UCLA’s Jordan Adams.
Five Focal Points to Victory: UCLA
-Staying on par with Missouri’s physicality by fronting its forwards
-Creating opportunities for Kyle Anderson in the paint
-Quick, efficient ball movement
-Keeping Missouri on its toes by switching between a man and zone defense
-Finding shots for Jordan Adams on the perimeter.
-Missouri is the No. 1 rebounding team in the nation at 47.2 per game (UCLA: 39.8 per game (35th)).
-UCLA’s starting lineup is predominantly comprised of freshmen (three freshman, one junior, one senior), whereas Missouri’s is mainly comprised of seniors (three seniors, one junior, one sophomore).
-Larry Drew, father of UCLA point guard Larry Drew II and currently head coach of the Atlanta Hawks, played college ball at Missouri.
-This will be Missouri’s first official road trip of the 2012-13 season.
-Missouri won the programs’ last meeting in 2002, which was the first time the Tigers had beaten UCLA in six total meetings.
-Tyus Edney’s unforgettable game-winning drive up the court with 4.8 seconds remaining occurred against Missouri in the second round of the 1995 NCAA Tournament.