First look: UCLA at California

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
4:41
PM PT
What: UCLA Bruins (18-6, 8-3) at California Golden Bears (14-9, 6-5)

When: Thursday, 6 p.m. PT

Where: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, Calif.

TV: ESPN2

Radio: AM 570

Scouting the Bruins: UCLA seems to be back on track with victories in its past two games following a stretch of three losses in four games, and is tied for first in the Pac-12 standings. The Bruins have stepped up the defensive intensity the past two games, forcing a season-high 19 turnovers against Washington and matching that number against Washington State. Those marks represented a season high for the Bruins, who are second in the Pac-12 in turnovers created at 14.4 a game. Causing turnovers has helped mask a rebounding deficiency that is becoming a glaring issue. The Bruins are last in the conference in rebounding margin, and have given up 904 rebounds to opponents -- 29 more than any other team in the conference. UCLA has been outrebounded, 258-203, over the past six games and has been outrebounded by eight or more in four consecutive games. The Bruins broke a shooting slump in a big way Saturday against Washington State, making 62 percent of their shots after shooting 35.4 in the previous three games. Shabazz Muhammad leads the team in scoring at 18.5 points a game -- the highest average among freshmen in the nation. Larry Drew II, who made a buzzer-beating game winner against Washington last week, is shooting 54.5 percent the past two games and has 14 assists in those games.

Scouting the Golden Bears: California, despite its marginal win-loss record, is among the hottest teams in the Pac-12 with three wins in the past four games. That stretch includes victories over Oregon and Arizona, both ranked in the national top 10 at the time. Those are the two teams tied with UCLA for first place, so the Golden Bears are looking for the first-place trifecta. Guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs, Cal’s two leading scorers, lived up to their billing last week. They combined for 81 of Cal’s 139 points in two games against Arizona State and Arizona, including a combined 52 points on 20-of-29 shooting in a 77-69 victory over the Wildcats. Crabbe leads the Pac-12 and is No. 17 nationally with 19.8 points per game. He was the Pac-12 player of the week after scoring 31 points on 12-of-15 shooting against Arizona. The Golden Bears are shooting 47.3 percent over the past four games -- up from the 43.2 they are averaging in Pac-12 games. California is currently in a five-way tie for fifth place in the Pac-12 -- two games behind the leaders -- and is fighting to at least get in the top four and earn a first-round bye in the Pac-12 tournament. They have five of their final seven games at home, but are a meager 7-4 at home this season.

The series: UCLA leads the all-time series, 133-100, and defeated the Golden Bears, 79-65, Jan. 3 in the Pac-12 opener at Pauley Pavilion.

Fast fact: The game will mark the third annual Pete Newell Classic, honoring the legendary former California coach. Andy Wolfe, an All-American for the Golden Bears in the 1940s, will receive the Pete Newell Career Achievement Award at halftime.

Quick quote: “That backcourt duo [Crabbe and Cobbs] is the best in the conference,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “They’re just really playing well. Both teams have improved. I watched that game last night -- the first league game of the year -- we’re a much better team, I believe, than when we played at home, and they are a lot better as well. They’re just executing really well right now.”

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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