Preview and Open Thread: Oregon Ducks at UCLA Bruins

Oregon Ducks (12-11, 5-6 Pac-10) vs. UCLA Bruins (16-7, 7-3 Pac-10)
7:30 PT, Pauley Pavilion
Media:  Comcast SportsNet Northwest (OR), Prime Ticket (SoCal)

Projected Starting Lineups

Pos.  UCLA Oregon
C Joshua Smith (10.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 0.6 apg) Joevan Catron (16.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.6 rpg)
F Reeves Nelson (14.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.7 apg) Tyrone Nared (5.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 0.4 apg)
F Tyler Honeycutt (13.0 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.8 apg)  E.J. Singler (11.2 ppg, 5.7 ppg, 1.8 apg)
G Lazeric Jones (10.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.3 apg) Garrett Sim (8. ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.8 apg)
G Malcolm Smith (13.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.0 apg) Jonathan Loyd (5.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 2.3 apg)

 

The two hottest teams in the Pac-10 match up in Westwood as Oregon looks to turn its momentum into an NIT run.  UCLA has won eight of its past nine, and sits a game and a half behind Arizona for second place in the conference.  The Ducks have won five of seven, and are in great position to earn an improbable shot at some sort of postseason.

UCLA took the first matchup at Matthew Knight Arena, 67-59.  Oregon got out to a decent halftime lead in that game, but was unable to hold on, as a flurry of offensive rebounds in the second half proved decisive.  However, Joevan Catron sat out that first game.  Ken Pomeroy says UCLA wins this matchup 79% of the time.

Pomeroy ranks UCLA 55th in the country, which is very similar to their efficiency ranking of both offense (108.5 pts/100 possessions, 65th) and defense (94.3 pts/100 possessions, 57th).  We saw last game that they have a huge size advantage, with big physical players such as seven footer Joshua Smith, Reeves Nelson, and Tyler Honeycutt all manning the interior.  Their shooting ( EFG% 50.8, 99th in the country) is fairly pedestrian, so trying to minimize the rebounding advantage is huge in this game.  They also don't shoot the three terribly well.

Oregon is up to 90th in the Pomeroy rankings.  The offense is still subpar based on total numbers (103.5 pts/100 possessions, 123rd), though the defense is still picking up the slack (95.4 pts/100 possessions, 64th).  UCLA will play man to man defense, and will put a myriad of guys on Catron.  Catron is drawing over seven fouls a game, so if he can get one or more of the trio of Nelson, Smith, or Honeycutt in early foul trouble, that will be a big bonus for Oregon as far as controlling the rebounding game.  If they double team, the other guys have to knock down open shots.  One advantage for Oregon is that UCLA is 267th in the nation in turnovers, coughing the ball up 22 times/100 possessions.  If Oregon can make the Bruins pay the same way they did Washington, the Ducks will win this game.

Keys to the Game:

Rebound, rebound, rebound:  Oregon lost the first matchup because they couldn't keep UCLA off the offensive boards.  They cannot afford to play good defense, only to give up layins on O-boards.

Feed the beast:  Get the ball into Joevan Catron.  When the offense works through him, good things happen.  Guys get open shots, and Duke gets to the line.

Force turnovers, and make them pay:  We've seen all year that turnovers are a great equalizer.  Force better teams to commit turnovers, then score a lot of points off of them.  Statistics suggest that UCLA will throw away the ball under pressure.

Also, if you're looking for something to listen to this weekday afternoon, Jeff Nusser of CougCenter does a wonderful Pac-10 hoops podcast, 18 and Life,they talk about Oregon pretty extensively this week.  I'll also embed the ATQ Podcast from this week, where Jared and I pretty extensively covered our recruiting class, but I also laid out Oregon's very achievable path to the NIT:

 

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