UCLA Basketball: Winning Battle of the Boards Key to Bruins Beating Missouri

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistDecember 28, 2012

Dec 20, 2011; Los Angeles, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins forwards and twin brothers Travis Wear (24) and David Wear (12) during the game against the UC Irvine Anteaters at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. UCLA defeated UC Irvine 89-60. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If UCLA (9-3) plans on beating its first ranked opponent of the 2012-13 season when No. 7 Missouri (10-1) takes the floor at Pauley Pavilion on Friday night, the Bruins must out-rebound the visitors.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Unfortunately for UCLA, that's something that is easy to say and incredibly difficult to achieve.

There isn't a team in the nation that cleans the glass better than Frank Haith's Missouri Tigers. Missouri leads the nation in rebounding, pulling down 47.2 boards per game.

More impressive is the Tigers' rebounding margin, pulling down 14.2 more rebounds than the opposition on a nightly basis.

That's not to say that the Bruins can't rebound, because UCLA does a fine job on the boards, pulling down just under 40 rebounds per game (39.8). That's the 36th highest number in the nation.

However, that impressive number still puts the Bruins more than seven boards behind the Tigers.

While it's true that UCLA has a trio of dynamic freshmen in Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams, who all do an excellent job of rebounding as wing players (the trio average a combined 18 boards per game), they haven't gone up against a team like Missouri yet.

The battle of the boards in this game is going to come down to the battle between UCLA's Wear twins—junior forwards Travis and David—and Missouri's formidable frontcourt of Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers.

While the twins are big enough at 6'10" each, they are soft, face-up power forwards who partake in literally no banging down low.

Oriakhi, who leads all players in the game with 9.1 rebounds per contest, is proficient at banging in the paint and playing a physical style of basketball. That's what happens when you spend the first three years of your college career playing ball for Jim Calhoun at UConn.

While the Big East is self-destructing, the conference made its reputation with teams that played a hard-nosed, physical brand of basketball.

Bowers, who has spent his entire career with the Tigers, is an explosive force in the paint. He has no problem mixing things up to position himself for the rebound.

It comes down to this.

Both of the Wear twins and Anderson must stand tall against the physical abuse that they'll face in the paint against the Tigers and rise to the challenge.

If they can do that, UCLA has a chance to pull off the upset.

Anything less will result in a disappointing result for the Bruins and the UCLA faithful.