Wednesday, January 9, 2013
First look: UCLA at Utah
By Peter Yoon
What: UCLA Bruins (12-3, 2-0) at Utah Utes (8-6, 0-2)
When: Thursday, 6:30 p.m. PT
Where: Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: AM 570
Scouting the Bruins: UCLA is on a seven-game win streak after sweeping a six-game homestand and now enter the first road test in conference play. And while the Bruins traveled to New York in November and last month played San Diego State in Anaheim and faced Texas in Houston, this will be the first time UCLA is set to play at the home court of an opponent. They are 2-2 outside of Pauley Pavilion so far. The Bruins are in a three-way tie for first in the conference after two games. Offensively, UCLA is among the best teams in the conference and lead the Pac-12 in scoring (79.9 points per game) and shooting percentage (48 percent), though the Bruins struggled offensively against Stanford on Saturday, shooting only 41 percent in a 68-60 victory over the Cardinal. Defensively, UCLA was at its best in its two conference games, giving up 62.5 points per game while holding California and Stanford to under 40 percent shooting. Freshman standout Shabazz Muhammad has rounded into form recently and is averaging 23.2 points over the last six games. Forward Travis Wear also is coming on strong, averaging 16 points over the last three games. Larry Drew II has had at least seven assists in six consecutive games; he is second in the nation with 8.5 assists per game and leads the nation with a 5.57 assist/turnover ratio.
Scouting the Utes: Utah has lost consecutive games for the first time this season after two narrow defeats in Pac-12 play at Arizona State and Arizona. Utah lost those two games by a combined four points and the Utes have now lost four of their last six overall. The Utes play a slow, patient offensive style and a tough defense; as a result, they are among the best defensive teams in the conference and the nation. They lead the Pac-12 and are No. 7 in the nation in field goal percentage defense (35.4 percent) and are second in the conference in scoring defense (57.2 points per game). Jason Washburn, a 6-foot-10 center, had consecutive double-doubles in Arizona, where he averaged 18 points and 14.5 rebounds. The scoring leaders for Utah are guard Jarred Dubois (13.2 points) and forward Jordan Loveridge (13). Loveridge, a 6-6 freshman, is averaging 16 points and 8.5 rebounds over the last four games. Utah is 7-2 at home, with losses to Sacramento State and Cal State Northridge. UCLA defeated Northridge in November. The Matadors are the only common opponent for the teams to date.
The series: UCLA leads the all-time series 5-4. Last year's 76-49 victory by UCLA at the Sports Arena was the first meeting between the teams since the 1983 NCAA tournament. UCLA has not played at Utah since 1930.
Fast fact: Second-year Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak played his college career at Montana under current Cal coach Mike Montgomery. UCLA coach Ben Howland said Utah and Stanford play a similar style. "They get their players to play really hard, really tough, really physical," Howland said.