UCLA (5-3) vs. Texas (5-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 8, 5:15 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Reliant Stadium (71,500) -- Houston, Texas. Television: ESPN. Home Record: UCLA 4-1, Texas 4-0. Away Record: UCLA 0-0, Texas 0-0. Neutral Record: UCLA 1-2, Texas 1-3. Conference Record: UCLA 0-0, Texas 0-0. Series Record: Texas leads, 3-2.
GAMES NOTES: Reliant Stadium will be the site for a non-conference battle between two teams trying to right the ship, as the UCLA Bruins match up with the Texas Longhorns on Saturday evening.
There was a great deal of hype surrounding UCLA this season, largely because of the addition of prized recruit Shabazz Muhammad. While Muhammad has largely lived up to the billing, the same cannot be said of the Bruins who are sitting at just 5-3 overall. UCLA began the season at No. 13 in nation but has since fallen off.
Although less was expected of Texas, the Longhorns are still struggling this season and enter this game also at 5-3 overall. On Tuesday the Longhorns were routed by Georgetown 64-41 in Madison Square Garden as part of the Jimmy V Classic. That dropped them to 1-3 on neutral courts this year. Texas will play two true home games next facing Texas State and North Carolina in a four-day span.
There have been five all-time meetings between these schools. The last three have been won by Texas, including a 69-59 victory last December in Los Angeles. UCLA's last win against Texas came in 1971.
UCLA got a bit of a reprieve in its last outing when it took down NAIA foe Cal State San Marcos. The Bruins rolled to an 83-60 victory in the contest by hitting 51.7 percent of their shots, while outscoring the Cougars 20-6 from the free-throw line. UCLA also had a massive 50-29 edge in rebounding led by Kyle Anderson who pulled down 16. Muhammad led the way in scoring with 19 points, but did turn the ball over six times.
Through five games, Muhammad has played well, scoring 16.0 points per game on 46.6 percent from the floor. Billed as a dominant scorer Muhammad has also made his presence felt on the boards (5.6 rpg) but has had a bit of an issue with ball security, averaging more than three turnovers per game. It is Jordan Adams (17.8 ppg) that is the lead scorer on the roster, doing so primarily off the bench. Adams is a gunner who adds an instant offensive spark, scoring 20 or more points five times this season. Anderson (6.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg) and Travis Wear (11.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg) are the top contributors on the glass, while Larry Drew (5.2 ppg, 8.5 apg) has distributed at a high level. As a team UCLA is scoring a healthy 76.9 points per game. The Bruins are in the top 30 in the country in assists (17.4 ppg) and rebounding (40.9 pg), but need to improve on the defensive end where they allow 68.2 points per game.
The Hoyas hounded the Longhorns all night on Tuesday and kept Texas to just a 29.2 percent success rate on field goal attempts. Texas had less than 10 field goals in both halves and hit just 2-of-13 shots from beyond the arc. Texas really hurt itself by failing to control the ball as the Longhorns were guilty of 22 turnovers that turned into 19 points for Georgetown. Sheldon McClellan scored a team-high 12 points but needed 13 shots to get there.
The Bruins and Longhorns don't have much in common in style of play. Texas prefers a more grinding pace as it limits teams to 56.8 points per game on 32.0 percent shooting, which is the lowest rate by opponents of any team in the country. However Texas has not been able to ride those defensive efforts to more wins as they are scoring only 61.9 points per game on 41.5 percent shooting. McClellan (16.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg) has played the second most minutes on the team despite coming off the bench. Julien Lewis (11.2 ppg) is the only other player scoring in double figures. Javan Felix (6.8 ppg, 5.9 apg) is a decent point guard but really needs to shoot better (29.0 FG percentage) for Texas to improve on the offensive end. Jonathan Holmes (5.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg) isn't much of a scorer but has been the best rebounder.
Its tough to believe that UCLA won't be able to turn itself around at some point this season. Texas will certainly try to slow the Bruins down and play at its own pace but ultimately the multitude of scorers for UCLA will win out.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCLA 74, Texas 66
12/08 10:38:02 ET