UCLA (18-5, 8-3) at Cal (14-9, 6-5)
Tipoff: 6 p.m., Haas Pavilion
TV/Radio: ESPN2/AM 570
At a glance: The last time UCLA saw Cal, the Bears were inking a slot in the NIT. Mike Montgomery’s team arrived at Pauley Pavilion three days into the new year, and proceeded to miss all 13 of its 3-point shots. Combined with another 0-fer performance against Harvard a week prior, Cal left Westwood with an ignominious streak of 19 long-range misses and a 79-65.
The Bears are looking better as of late, having knocked off both Oregon and Arizona in their past three games. Taking down top-10 teams isn’t a bad way to get your first two wins of the season against top-100 RPI opponents, and in doing so, Cal has managed to inject some faint NCAA tournament hopes into a season that was looking like the worst of Montgomery’s five-year tenure.
“His teams have always improved throughout the year and this team’s no exception,” UCLA head coach Ben Howland said of Montgomery.
Added UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad: “They’re looking really good. We played them down here and they didn’t play as well. We didn’t play as well either. We’re really going to be ready for them.” Continue reading
Travis Wear will sit out with a concussion when UCLA visits Arizona State tomorrow at 1 p.m. PT. The junior forward’s string of seven straight double-digit scoring games was cut short in a 87-73 win at Arizona Thursday night when he missed the second half after colliding with Wildcat forward Brandon Ashley.
His absence means freshman Tony Parker will almost certain play double-digit minutes for the second straight game, something he did once before in mid-December in against Texas and Prairie View A&M.
In Tucson, the 6-foot-9 center had six points, three rebounds and a block in 10 minutes while recording just one foul. His best play was a turnaround jumper with 6:48 left in the game; he drew a foul and converted the three-point play to give the Bruins a 63-55 lead.
Travis Wear is sitting out the second half with concussion-like symptoms. That ends his streak of seven straight games with double-digit scoring. He made all three of his shots in the first half for six points. Little-used freshman big man Tony Parker played just three minutes in the first half, but might finally top 10 for the first time since Dec. 15.
A year ago, Travis Wear finished as one of the Pac-12′s leading rebounders — at least on one end of the court. The UCLA forward ranked second with 2.87 offensive boards per game, behind only Colorado’s Andre Roberson.
This season, that number has dipped to a paltry 1.52 per game. He isn’t sure why.
“I don’t know. I feel like I’m making an effort to go to the boards,” Wear said. “I just need to make even more of an effort now. I think I was getting three a game at this point last year. I’m not getting that right now, but I’m capable of it.”
The 6-foot-10 junior is averaging 16.7 points over his past seven games, and agreed that — armed with renewed confidence in his jump shot — he is using his face-up game even more than he did last year. He added that it shouldn’t affect his tenacity Continue reading
This was a fairly comfortable win for the Bruins, who led by double digits for the vast majority of the second half. It’s worth noting that UCLA still has some trouble boxing out; despite Oregon State missing the nation’s sixth-leading rebounder in Eric Moreland (suspension), the visitors had 35 rebounds to UCLA’s 37.
The Bruins have won 10 straight for the first time since 2008-09, and five straight to open conference play for the first time since 2003-04, Howland’s first season.
– Travis Wear had a sixth straight double-digit scoring effort with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Two of his seven rebounds also came on offense, the first time he’s had multiple offensive boards since grabbing four against Missouri.
“Nobody in our team, in our family is surprised by how he’s playing. Continue reading
Travis Wear is playing his best basketball of the season.
It’s not the first time he’s ever had five straight double-digit scoring efforts — he did the same last January — but his 16.6 point average over that stretch has often come during UCLA dry spells. Against Utah last Thursday, he scored eight of his team’s final 13 points. At Colorado less than two days later, the 6-foot-10 forward scored nine straight for the Bruins in the second half.
The five games prior to UCLA’s upset of Missouri, Wear averaged 7.2 points on 41.7 percent shooting. He said he hasn’t made adjustments to his shot in practice.
“I really didn’t like how I was playing individually a few games ago — six, five games ago,” he said. “I think I’ve just really focused on being more aggressive, playing with confidence. …
“I thought I was passing up some stuff (before). I thought I was second-guessing myself a little bit.” Continue reading
Ben Howland said last week that UCLA that opponents kept missing open layups, something he’d like as a continued trend. Against Utah Thursday night, the Bruins were helped to a 57-53 road win by some inexplicable 3-point bricks.
Glen Dean took two wide open 3-pointers at 2:02 and 1:41 — allowing the UCLA bench to breathe after watching the team surrender two offensive boards. Howland had said this week that the team would lose if it couldn’t box out effectively, something that has been one of the young squad’s biggest holes.
“They missed some wide open shots late,” Howland said. “Dean missed two wide open shots by the grace of God. I was really happy to escape this place.”
The positives are that the Bruins entered a rough environment and survived. The Huntsman Center was packed with a season-high attendance of 9,510, well above Utah’s home average of 7,380. The increase may be something UCLA should learn to expect: even as they remain a flawed team, the Bruins are an entertaining team and a marquee program.
A close win against the gritty Utes also isn’t necessarily cause for alarm; they’ve now lost three conference games by a combined eight points. Continue reading
The Bruins slugged their way to another low-scoring game in the Pac-12′s opening weekend, combining with Stanford to shoot just 31.4 percent in the first half.
Even when it should have coasted to victory with a double-digit lead, UCLA left the door open with four straight missed free throws. It took a boneheaded decision by Stanford to call a non-existent timeout to truly seal the win.
“Any win is beautiful,” Ben Howland said afterward.
Except that isn’t the case anymore. The embarrassing Cal Poly loss in November involved a team that looks nothing like the one that now calls Pauley Pavilion home. This current incarnation of UCLA basketball has improved to the point where just getting a win isn’t enough. Young talent is gelling and, when the transition game works in peak form, the Bruins look like a team that could knock off a couple of teams in March. Continue reading