The Cats and the Bruins face off tonight in Las Vegas in the Pac-12 tournament. In their only matchup this season in Tucson–on February 8–the Bruins beat the Cats 82-74.
#3 Aaron Holiday 6’3″ G (Jr.)
#23 Prince Ali 6’3″ G (So.)
#13 Kris Wilkes 6’8″ G (Fr.)
#14 Gyorgy Goloman 6’10” F (Sr.)
#40 Thomas Welsh 7’0″ F (Sr.)
Off the bench: #4 Jaylen Hands 6’3″ G (Fr.), #0 Alex Olesinski 6’10” F (So.), #5 Chris Smith 6’9″ G (Fr.)
The Bruins have switched up their starting lineup a few times throughout the season, mainly rotating Hands/Ali/Goloman in and out of the starting lineup depending on the matchup.
Offense: The Bruins run a pretty standard college offense with some high pick and roll, weave, and a lot of dribble/drive. Welsh and Goloman anchor the post. Holiday might be the Pac-12’s best player and is coming off a 34 point/8 assist/7 rebound performance yesterday against Stanford. All of UCLA’s perimeter players can get to the basket and create scoring opportunities. They are 1st in the Pac-12 averaging 81.8 points a game. They are also 1st in 3 point shooting at 40%, and average just over 25 3-point shot attempts per game.
Defense: The Cats wil see both zone and man tonight as UCLA switches up looks throughout the game. UCLA is not a strong defensive team. They do play aggressively on defense at times, but they rely more on outscoring their opponents and beating them down the court.
Strengths: Holiday and Welsh. They go 8 deep and all 8 are really good players. They have exceptional speed and athleticism. Holiday can do it all and can’t usually be stopped by just one defender. It will take a team effort by the Cats to hold Holiday and Welsh in check. Welsh is averaging a double-double and can score from both inside and out.
Weaknesses: Depth and defense. Much like the Cats, foul trouble from the main players can be too much to overcome.
Summary: This will be an exciting game to watch. There are great matchups all over the court. The game in Tucson earlier this year, statistically, was practically a mirror image. Both teams had 10 turnovers. UA had the rebounding edge 33-31. UCLA had 15 assists to UA’s 14. UA shot 10 free throws to UCLA’s 9. The only significant difference was in shooting percentages. UCLA shot 52% overall and 46% from 3 while the Cats were 44% overall and 36% from 3. That was the difference in the previous meeting. UCLA was making more of their shots. Sometimes that’s all–or mainly–what it comes down to.
Keys for the Cats: Transition defense will be important for Arizona. UCLA has good speed overall and will look for quick shots, especially Holiday. Being able to stay in front of the guards, recover, and contest 3 point shots will be a challenge.
Lately, teams have been giving Ayton those 15 foot jumpers rather than trying to defend him in the post. He has also been seeing double and triple teams when he does get the ball down low. UCLA has good enough size–if they choose so–to try and play Ayton with 1 defender. Ayton had his worst shooting performance of the year against UCLA in Tucson, shooting only 37% making 7 of 19 attempts. That is almost half his season average of 60%. It was his worst shooting performance of the year…until yesterday. Against Colorado he shot only 29% with a 4 for 14 performance.
Defense has always been an emphasis for Coach Miller and it’s no mistake that the Cats have only lost 1 game this year when they held their opponent under 78 points. (SMU is the only team to score less than 78 points and still beat the Cats). Also, Arizona has only lost 2 games this year when they shoot 50% or better from the field. My favorite stat for this team is that they are undefeated (13-0) when they shoot 40% or better from 3.
Both teams are locks for NCAA tournament play so there won’t be any extra incentive to win this game. This is a heated rivalry though, and Pac-12 pride will keep both teams focused and determined as well as a chance to move up higher in the seeding. The UCLA/UA basketball history is rich with names like Wooden, Olson, Elliot, Walton, Alcindor, Kerr, et al. This will be another memorable matchup with NBA talent all over the court.