GAME NOTES: In their final game before league play begins, the UCLA Bruins will go up against the Alabama Crimson Tide in a non-conference collision at Pauley Pavilion.
Alabama has this game and one other against Robert Morris before it gets started against the rest of the SEC. The Crimson Tide have put forth a 5-6 overall record through 11 non-conference tilts, including losses in three of their last four outings.
As for UCLA, the recent portion of the schedule has seen some uneven results, with the Bruins trading wins and losses in their last four matchups. The most recent result was a win over Weber State (83-60) last Sunday. UCLA is 10-2 overall, including a perfect 8-0 mark at home, where it will be again versus crosstown and Pac-12 rival USC next Sunday.
The last time these two teams were pitted against each other was during the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The Bruins escaped with a 62-59 victory in that contest, en route to an appearance in the National Title Game where they lost to Florida. That win was the second all-time for UCLA in three total meetings with the Crimson Tide.
In its most recent outing, Alabama took on Xavier, falling just short, 77-74. Retin Obasohan nailed a 3-pointer with one second remaining to cut the Crimson Tide's deficit to one but a pair of free-throws on the other end spoiled any chance at a come-from-behind victory.
Alabama did show some improved efficiency in the loss, netting 48.9 percent of its field goal tries, including 8-of-19 from beyond the arc. During the season the Crimson Tide have netted a respectable 45.9 percent from the field. They have also been a solid defensive team, holding foes to 66.9 points per game on 40.6 percent shooting. However, rebounding remains a weakness for the squad (36.3 pg). Trevor Releford (17 ppg) kept to the same pace he has been playing at all year against Xavier with 17 points. Obasohan (13.9 ppg), Nick Jacobs (10.5 ppg) and Levi Randolph (10.1 ppg) all add to the scoring punch.
UCLA shot nearly 10 percentage points better than Weber State last Sunday. The Bruins sank 49.2 percent of their shot attempts, to a the 39.3 percent effort by the Wildcats. The Bruins also had a 42-28 advantage on the glass, helped by a 23-point, 10-rebound double-double from Kyle Anderson.
Even though the Bruins are not nationally ranked, they have been performing better than most teams offensively. They averaged 86.4 points and 18.4 assists per game, while shooting 52.6 percent from the field. Each of those marks is among the 10 best in the country, including their second-best field goal percentage. Jordan Adams (18.9 ppg, 3.2 spg) is the most potent scorer on the roster as well as a disruptive defender, who excels at capitalizing on other players' mistakes. Anderson (14.7 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 6.7 apg) is one of the most versatile players in the country and Zach LaVine (12.8 ppg) provides a ton of spark off the bench.
When UCLA plays at home it has shown an exceptional ability to light up the scoreboard. Expect the same to be true on Saturday as the Bruins propel themselves into conference action with a resounding victory.
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