Cal has potent combination to combat UCLA’s basketball team

Cal coach Cuonzo Martin has fielded yet another stingy defense this season

Cal coach Cuonzo Martin has fielded yet another stingy defense this season

Cal may be the Pac-12 foe most in possession of the UCLA basketball team’s kryptonite. Good defense speaks for itself and Cal has the best in the conference to this point. Combined with a slow tempo, it may be enough to interrupt UCLA’s flow and stifle the fastest and most dangerous offense in college basketball.

Cal (10-4) is no slouch on offense either with future first-round pick Ivan Rabb (15.2 ppg, 10.3 rpg) and freshman point guard Charlie Moore (15.3 ppg, 3.5 apg) leading the way, but the Bears’ defense is coach Cuonzo Martin’s calling card. Cal leads the Pac-12 in scoring defense (60.3 ppg), field goal percentage defense (37.5%) and 3-point percentage defense (28.5 %). In fact Cal ranks 11th, 12th and 12th, respectively, in the country in those categories.

UCLA’s largest concern, however, may be Cal’s pace of play. The Bruins adjusted tempo is 12th in the nation, according to kenpom.com. Cal’s is 255th. The two teams other than Oregon and Arizona picked to finish in the Pac-12’s top four are deep enough into the season that those numbers hold weight.

UCLA plays fast, to put it lightly. Cal does not. Whoever dictates the pace will have a decided advantage in a fairly critical game regarding the conference standings.

UCLA’s only loss this season came on the road against an Oregon team that could easily turn out to be one of the best in the country for a second consecutive season. But now the onus is on the No. 4 Bruins to defend their home court against a team capable of competing for a conference title. It’s not exactly an easy place to be for a team led by two freshman. Read more about why in my preview of Cal versus UCLA.

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UCLA basketball team will redshirt Prince Ali, Alex Olesinski

UCLA sophomores Prince Ali (knee) and Alex Olesinski (foot)  announced Wednesday they will redshirt this season after injuries shelved them longer than expected

UCLA sophomores Prince Ali (knee) and Alex Olesinski (foot) announced Wednesday they will redshirt this season after injuries shelved them longer than expected

Injuries coupled with a potential lack of playing time led two UCLA sophomores to announce Wednesday night they will redshirt this season. Prince Ali and Alex Olesinski will not take part in a season that is shaping up to be a special one for the No. 4 Bruins basketball team.

Both players recently returned to practice, but it took Ali longer than expected to recover from surgery on his meniscus July 15. Olesinski suffered a stress reaction in his left foot the week before the season began that lingered long enough to keep him off the practice court until this week.

Ali, an athletic 6-foot-3 shooting guard once a 4-star recruit, would have a hard time even equaling the 11 minutes per game he played as a freshman considering UCLA already employs four accomplished guards. Olesinski, a 6-10 power forward, has four front court players ahead of him in the rotation, including one of the best freshman in the country, TJ Leaf. Continue reading

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Isaac Hamilton’s shooting slump the worst of his UCLA career

UCLA senior Isaac Hamilton was the team's leading scorer before totaling two points during the team's two-game road trip to OregonWould the UCLA basketball team still be undefeated if Isaac Hamilton’s shooting slump didn’t bottom out in Oregon? All the Bruins needed was three more points in the last-second loss to the Ducks Dec. 28 punctuated by Dillon Brooks’ 3-pointer.

Hamilton, the leading scorer 11 games into the season for the highest-scoring offense in the country outside The Citadel, had 2 points in Oregon. That’s one basket over two games – an 89-87 loss to Oregon and a 76-63 win over Oregon State – for the Pac-12’s top returning scorer from a season ago.

UCLA’s shooting guard has made 2 of 23 three-pointers over a five-game span and 1 of his last 16 field goals in the last two games combined.

“It’s a slump,” Hamilton said. “But it’s nothing I can’t bounce back from.” Continue reading

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Lonzo Ball changed his quirky shooting motion, then changed it back


Back in August, before he became the most exciting player in college basketball, Lonzo Ball was worried about NBA scouts picking him apart. The UCLA freshman’s concern specifically surrounded his quirky shooting motion.

So he changed it – for a few weeks. A decision to experiment with more conventional form was reached during a meeting between Ball, the UCLA coaching staff, his father and his trainer. They collectively formulated an experiment that would take place over three weeks in August ending with the Bruins’ three exhibition games in Australia at the end of the summer. The trial run didn’t go well.

“I was just second-guessing it the whole time,” Ball said.

He immediately returned to the sidewinding form that stretches his right arm across his body at a 45-degree angle. Ball is a right-handed player lifting the ball above his head on the left side of his face, a path typically taken by left-handed shooters. You have to see it in slow motion to entirely appreciate it.

READ: The complete feature story detailing the evolution of Lonzo Ball’s shot

Ball has plenty of reason to feel secure in his decision to return to his unconventional form. Continue reading

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Ball, Leaf lead Bruins to bounce-back win

Despite shooting a season-low 44.1 percent from the field, the UCLA men’s basketball team closed out Oregon State on Friday to bounce back from its first loss of the season with a 76-63 victory.

The No. 2 Bruins (14-1, 1-1 Pac-12) needed big second-half performances from their pair of fantastic freshmen to stave off an OSU team that’s lost seven of its past eight games. The Beavers (4-11, 0-2 Pac-12) came back from a six-point halftime deficit to tie the game at 38-38 with 16:22 left.

Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf led the Bruins with 23 and 21 points, respectively. Leaf added 10 rebounds after the freshman forward struggled to impact the game against Oregon on Wednesday. Ball went on a personal 7-0 scoring run in less than a minute that helped push the Bruin lead to 14 points with 6:13 left.

Aaron Holiday had 14 points and six assists off the bench.

UCLA overcame the relatively poor shooting night by feasting on Oregon State miscues. The Bruins scored 33 points off 16 Beaver turnovers and had 14 fastbreak points.

Isaac Hamilton struggled with his shot for the second straight game as he was held scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting (0-for-5 from 3-point range). He scored only two points against Oregon, shooting 1 for 6 from the field.

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