UCLA vs. Stanford: Three potential rematch differences

All week long, coaches on both sides have been talking about how little last week will affect the Pac-12 Championship. Both expect the other team to come out with their best shot, and both expect to add tweaks to their own playbooks — though neither went into detail for obvious reasons. No one thought the short week would make a difference, given that whatever affected one team would likely affect the other.

In the midst of all that coach-speak, what exactly will change? Here are three examples:

Workhorse: Johnathan Franklin has yet to take more than 30 carries this year — something that may change against Stanford Friday night. Jim Mora said that the tailback, who mustered just 65 yards last week, will be a key part of the gameplan again in the Cardinal encore. This isn’t the most revelatory news, but Mora has been careful to save Franklin’s legs for late-game situations. He won’t be as wary of that tomorrow.

“We’ve got a long break after this one,” he said, smiling. “We’re going to ride that horse a little bit.”

If so, that will lessen the team’s need to rely on either Jordon James or Steven Manfro for carries.

Also key will be for the Bruins to keep the game close so that they can actually use Franklin extensively late in the game. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone mentioned after last Saturday’s loss that the team had trouble staying on schedule in terms of downs — meaning they were often faced with more than 10 yards to go. If Franklin can churn out a good rhythm all game, that will help keep UCLA on pace.

On the other side of the field, David Shaw is expecting that the Bruins will “do everything” better than they did a week ago.

“They were on a clip where they won five straight,” Shaw said. “That team didn’t go away. They didn’t disappear last week. They missed some things. They had some chances that went our way.”

In particular, Shaw pointed out Franklin, Brett Hundley, Joseph Fauria and Anthony Barr as the most difficult Bruins for him to gameplan against.

The replacements: Mora said kick return duties have been decided, but wouldn’t specify who exactly He gave only this list of players who might appear: Devin Fuller, Roosevelt Davis, Shaq Evans, Randall Goforth, Kenny Walker.

Simon Goines, Ellis McCarthy and Manfro are also recent examples of players who have been banged up recently, but Mora didn’t rule anyone out.

“We’ve got a couple of guys that are nicked up,” Mora said. “This game is pretty darn important. … There’s not a whole lot that’s gonna keep them off the field.”

Punter Ben Rhyne is filling in for Stanford senior Daniel Zychlinski, who was knocked out of the game by a thundering hit from Anthony Barr last week. Zychlinski’s shoulder is still injured, so Rhyne will take his place after kicking three punts against the Bruins — none of which landed inside the 20. Shaw said he was confident in his backup. (Unspoken was that he was still the backup for a reason.)

“For him, it’s just doing it when it counts,” Shaw said.

In what could be a close, grinding game, even one good roll could make a difference.

Rain game: UCLA has played just once in the rain this season, and it beat USC then. The weather will certainly be wet tomorrow, but the field is being covered with tarp all night and tomorrow morning. Traditional wisdom has it that, if the game does get sloppy, Stanford’s power run game would likely benefit more than UCLA’s up-tempo offense.

“The rain doesn’t really affect our style very much at all,” Shaw said. “We’re going to run the ball.”

“You could look at it two ways,” Mora said. “They’re kind of a physical, pound-it-, grind-it-out team. On the one hand, you can say that might be an advantage.

“But I’ve also been in games where a team that spreads it out a little more, gets playmakers in the open field and creates those one-on-one matchups sometimes has the advantage. If you make a guy miss on a slippery field, you’ve got some ground you can gain.”

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Extra numbers from UCLA-CSUN

Some tidbits from the Bruins’ 82-56 win over the Matadors:

— Larry Drew II had a career-high 13 assists to just two turnovers. His previous high was 12 against James Madison this year.

“He’s not focused on scoring. … He’s a playmaker,” said sophomore shooting guard Norman Powell. “We count on him to pressure the ball on defense, get on the break, find the open man.”

— Kyle Anderson had his best offensive night of the year, scoring a career-high 15 points. Like he does on most nights, the point forward filled up the stat sheet with seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks. His shot was still iffy coming out of high school though, and that’s showed so far. Still a small sample size through seven games, but he’s 34 percent from the field and 50 percent from the line. The latter number is particularly atrocious, especially considering that he has taken more free throw attempts (26) than anyone on the team except Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams.

— Against CSUN, the Bruins had an 8-4 edge in fast break points and a 24-16 edge in points of turnovers. “Every time we were in transition we made good plays,” Muhammad said. “Guys like me, and Norman and even Trav are really athletic.”

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UCLA 82, CSUN 56: A post-Smith world

LOS ANGELES — In beating Cal State Northridge 82-56, UCLA finally played the way it was supposed to against the Big West. The Bruins still had sloppy moments on both ends of the court, but after recent debacles against Cal Poly and UC Irvine, the Wednesday night victory appeared to be a long stride forward.

But the news everyone wanted to discuss was the departure of Josh Smith, the second player to leave the program in four days. (Tyler Lamb announced his intent to transfer on Sunday.) Ironically, Smith was plastered all over the cover of the game program.

UCLA now has just eight scholarship players on its roster. And with Tony Parker’s sprained ankle, they may even have just seven available against San Diego State on Saturday.

Program gone wrong? Quote of the night, courtesy of Shabazz Muhammad: “I think Ben is the perfect guy for us.”

The players, predictably enough, tried to dismiss any talk of bad locker room chemistry. Travis Wear said that the guys all like each other and hang out together. Norman Powell said that UCLA will continue to be a top destination for recruits.

But it’s hard to argue against the recent exodus, all since 2008: Chace Stanback (UNLV), Drew Gordon (New Mexico), Mike Moser (UNLV), Matt Carlino (BYU), J’Mison Morgan (Baylor), Brendan Lane (Pepperdine), De’End Parker (USF), Anthony Stover, Reeves Nelson. Some were dismissals, but the sheer number is still stunning.

At this point, the Bruins have effectively cleared the roster of anyone involved with the program during the time documented by Sports Illustrated. The main holdover? Ben Howland.

Shed weight: It’s easy to make jokes about how much thinner the Bruins are in the frontcourt without Josh Smith. Travis Wear even made a few puns in the postgame press conference, although those could have very well been unintentional.

Smith hasn’t contributed much on the court, his numbers declining each year since his All-Pac-10 Freshman introduction that ended with a third-round NCAA loss to Florida. His 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game are hardly irreplaceable. (His career, both the good and the bad, are summed up well in this airballed layup. Skilled enough to take the ball upcourt, too heavy to finish.)

But just who exactly will replace them? The obvious candidate is Tony Parker, but he was bothered by back spasms last week and sprained his ankle during Wednesday’s warm-ups. He ended the game with a boot on his left foot, playing just one minute. Howland said the trainer didn’t believe the injury to be serious.

With no true big men available, UCLA was able to run a relatively effective up-tempo offense for the first time this season. Playing CSUN helped, of course, but there still were moments like Muhammad shaking a defender to go up for a dunk. Or a wild sequence that saw Norman Powell tipping the ball away at halfcourt, Jordan Adams diving to the ground to grab it before flipping it to Larry Drew, and Drew then swinging an alley-oop pass up to Powell.

Zone defense: Howland confirmed that the team will indeed play more zone defense, although it will not completely abandon man-to-man. Nearly every player looked more capable in the zone, but Kyle Anderson stood out in particular. His utilized his length well and didn’t have to fight through screens. The result was three steals and two blocks — all in the first half.

The caveat is that Cal State Northridge was having an absolutely atrocious shooting night. The Matadors front-rimmed shots from all over the court, from uncontested 3-pointers to running floaters. Few teams will be so kind as to convert just 32.9 percent of their shots.

Starting lineup: Ben Howland said he put both Kyle Anderson and Larry Drew in the starting lineup because he expected more pressure and wanted both his ballhandlers on the court. He then continued to emphasize that the starting five doesn’t matter that much because everyone will get minutes. (This is especially true now that Josh Smith and Tyler Lamb are both gone.) Jordan Adams also started for the first time, but didn’t see an uptick in looks: 8 points on 3/5 shooting.

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