Utah (17-7, 6-6) at UCLA (19-5, 8-3)
When: Saturday, 2 p.m., Pauley Pavilion TV: Pac-12 Networks (JB Long, Don MacLean) Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)
No. 1: How will Utah fare away from home? On Thursday, the Utes beat USC to finally notch their first road win since Jan. 19, 2013. With a trip through the Bay Area still looming, it may very well be their last of the regular season.
Most bothersome for the up-and-coming program is the inability to finish on the road. In their five road losses in conference play, they thrice blew double-digit leads.
The Bruins had one of their worst offensive halves of the season in Salt Lake City last month, and haven’t completely shaken the slow-start bug since. They can’t afford losing at Pauley Pavilion to a lesser team, not when first place is within sights again thanks to Arizona State’s upset of Arizona.
No. 2: Delon Wright. The younger brother of NBA forward Dorell Wright turned out to be a major recruiting coup for the Utes, transferring from the City College of San Francisco to become their most versatile player. Continue reading →
Zach LaVine is just six of 29 in his last five games, a slump that has spotlighted the pockmarks on a once stunning freshman campaign.
Most glaring remains shot selection, something that was apparent even during his eight straight double-digit scoring games. It’s just that when contested 25-footers find net, forgiveness comes easy.
Lately, those tough jumpers have been clanking more often than not. His 1-of-6 showing during UCLA’s 92-74 win over Colorado even prompted Spencer Dinwiddie, the Buffs’ injured star, to chime in from his bed during the game:
With just over a minute left on the game clock, Pauley Pavilion let out a collective gasp — one mixed in equal parts disappointment and disbelief.
No, it’s not the game that was in question. UCLA already led by double digits, and was comfortably on its way to a 92-74 win over Colorado on Thursday night.
It’s just that the home crowd had grown so accustomed to long bombs finding nothing but net. And by the time David Wear’s 3-point attempt spun out in a game long decided, those 8,431 had perhaps only hazy memories of what misses looked like.
Late is better than never. After an underwhelming start to its rematch against Colorado — 10 assists to seven turnovers through the first 20 minutes — UCLA (19-5, 8-3) found its groove and cruised to its fourth straight home victory.
The Bruins shot 8-of-12 from beyond the arc in the second half, and 20-of-32 overall. On the night, they finished 11-of-22 from long range. Continue reading →
Colorado (18-6, 7-4) at UCLA (18-5, 7-3)
When: Thursday, 6 p.m., Pauley Pavilion TV: ESPN2 (Dave Pasch, Bill Walton) Radio: AM 570 (Chris Roberts, Tracy Murray)
No. 1: Norman Powell vs. Askia Booker. Last time these two met, UCLA’s junior guard had 19 points to his counterpart’s game-high 21. Powell is a strong man-to-man defender, so it’s Booker — two inches shorter, 45 pounds lighter — that will likely be at a disadvantage. The Colorado guard picked up four fouls when the Bruins visited Boulder, mostly due to Powell’s skill at driving down the lane.
The two have since blossomed into increasingly important roles for their respective teams. With star guard Spencer Dinwiddie sidelined, Booker is a main reason that the Buffs have won three straight. In his past six games, he is averaging 5.67 assists.
No. 2: The 3-point line. Colorado allows 37.1 percent of opposing shots to come from beyond the arc, which is the worst mark of anyone in the conference besides UCLA (42.2). Continue reading →
As a sophomore, Norman Powell mulled a transfer before then-head coach Ben Howland was fired. Looking back, can you blame him?
The 6-foot-4 guard ranked seventh among UCLA players in offensive rating in 2012-13, and 62nd in the conference. He last touched the ball on 14.5 percent of the team’s possessions, behind even little-used big man Tony Parker.
This year, Powell is the 12th-most efficient offensive player in the conference, four spots behind leading Bruin scorer Jordan Adams. The main difference has been taking more shots closer to the basket, but just how much his shot preference has changed is astounding.
Over three seasons, here are his percentage of shots taken at the rim, his field goal percentage on those shots, and how many of those shots are assisted:
After winning its first national championship, UCLA will open its 2014 season with arguably the thinnest infield of coach John Savage’s tenure.
All-conference honorable mention Kevin Kramer could soon undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, leaving the Bruins with just two returning starters along the base paths: catcher Shane Zeile and first baseman Pat Gallagher. UCLA ranked second in the Pac-12 in fielding last year (.980), but lost shortstop Pat Valaika — the team’s first Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year — and Cody Regis, a 39-game starter at second base.
After starting all 66 games at third base during the Bruins’ 2013 title run, Kramer had been slated to move to shortstop. The team will make a decision on his possible surgery by next Monday. He and Savage had discussed using him exclusively as a designated hitter, but later ruled out that plan.
Infielder Kevin Williams is also battling a shoulder injury, and will be sidelined until mid-March. Continue reading →
Four-star athlete Jaason Lewis committed to UCLA this morning, choosing to cross the country rather than opt for other finalists Florida or Tennessee.
Listed at 6-foot-2, 233 pounds, the Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes standout gives UCLA a big, versatile athlete and an early boost to its 2015 class. Lewis is rated the nation’s 19th-best athlete by Rivals.com and 22nd-best receiver by Scout.com, but could easily play running back at the next level. He has also played safety and linebacker in high school.
He is UCLA’s third commitment for 2015, after No. 1 tight end Alize Jones and three-star linebacker Victor Alexander.
– Cal defensive lineman Ted Agu died on Friday morning after a training run. He was 21. A cause of death has not yet been determined. A source told CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd that Agu had the sickle cell trait, but the article has since been removed.
The dean of the UC Berkeley School of Public Health also issued a statement about the All-Academic second-teamer.
Agu’s family and friends have started a memorial fund to raise money for his funeral costs.
– Washington State receiver Gabe Marks was arrested outside a bar early Saturday morning and cited for four misdemeanors, including fourth-degree assault. He apologized on Twitter, but the school has not commented. Continue reading →
Norman Powell scored a season-high 21 points in UCLA’s 83-73 win at USC last night, 10 of which came in the first 7:08 of the second half as part of his team’s 27-6 run.
It’s not the first time the junior has played the spark plug role this season. In a 70-68 win at Oregon, he scored eight of UCLA’s first 10 points of the second half. In a 69-56 win at Colorado, he scored 19 and forced Buffs guard Askia Booker into early foul trouble.
What made his latest outing a bit different was the return of his shooting stroke. He entered the game shooting 18.4 percent from beyond the arc, but made 2-of-4 against the Trojans. It was the second time this season that he drained multiple 3-pointers.
His eight field goals on Saturday were also a single-game record for a UCLA player in the Galen Center, which was built before the 2006-07 season.
Powell’s improved play has come with increased playing time — though why that uptick hadn’t come earlier is still a pertinent question. The guard has played at least 30 minutes in three of his past four games. He had only cleared that mark in two other games: the first two of the season, against Drexel and Oakland. Continue reading →