UCLA vs. Missouri: What to Watch

For some inexplicable reason, UCLA opened as a 2.5-point favorite over No. 7 Missouri, whose only loss came against No. 4 Louisville. Part of that might have to do with the 7 p.m. game being the Tigers first true road game this year, but the Bruins haven’t been close to showing they’re a top-10 caliber team.

What’s at stake: After faltering against San Diego State, UCLA has one last chance to bolster its postseason resume as it prepares to enter Pac-12 play on Jan. 3. A five-game winning streak would likely vault them back into the rankings as well, and keep Ben Howland’s job a little safer.

“It would definitely be a huge win for our current season,” said point guard Larry Drew II. “At this point, I think a win over anybody, everybody at this point would be good.”

Added freshman Kyle Anderson: “It’s a real big test for us. Missouri’s a great team. They’re a top-10 team. We’ve gotten better than the last time we played a top-25 team. We wanna see where we stand.”

At a glance: It’s really hard to see how the Bruins will defend a team as athletic as Missouri, so they’ll likely have to score at least 80 points to win. Ken Pomeroy still has UCLA as the 12th most efficient offensive team in the country, and the freshman trio of Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams have started to gel more in recent games. Missouri enters the game as the top rebounding team in the country, which could hurt the Bruins; UCLA has struggled a bit at times with giving up second-chance points. Forward Laurence Bowers leads the Tigers with 16.9 points per game.

Players to watch: Alex Oriakhi, a 6-foot-9, 255-pound transfer from UConn, is listed at exactly the same measurements as Long Beach State’s Dan Jennings, who wrecked the Bruins for 27 points on 13 of 15 shooting. Oriakhi isn’t as offensively-minded, but given Ben Howland’s refusal to give Tony Parker big minutes, there’s still no one who can physically keep him off the boards for second-chance buckets. Howland has talked about Larry Drew’s defense being inconsistent this season, and he’ll need to try and limit the quick Phil Pressey, who’s averaging 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds.

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  • UCLA Owns the Rose Bowl

    Not sure what’s more fun: that win, or knowing that Tydides and the Howland haters at BruinsNation won’t be able to sleep tonight.

    • samollie

      just got back from the game…it was for the most part an electric scene. looking forward to watching the recording to see how the game and crowd came across on TV. This can be an entertaining team to watch when it wins, but Howland’s offense is still bewildering to watch – and the defensive lapses had us groaning. In the end though, it was a great game to watch live and our collective Bruin Pride was palpable throughout the evening.
      As for Tydides, as soon as I read his headline I knew his propaganda machine was in full affect and I stopped right there. Let his gang of circle jerks play with themselves and splatter their snarkiness on one another.

  • In retrospect, very good analysis Jack.