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December 4, 2008
UCLA hits the road to play Texas
The Bruins (4-1) will face their toughest test today when they hook up with the hook'em Texas Longhorns (5-1) in Austin at 6:00 PM PST. The Longhorns beat the Bruins in a tough, hard fought battle 63-61 at Pauley Pavilion.
Though Texas returns a lot of experience to the floor, schematically on the defensive end there have been changes.
The Longhorns are using their athleticism and length on the defensive side of the floor by going to a high pressure defense. Texas is going to come after the young UCLA basketball team and try to pressure them into making mistakes and getting turnovers.
Texas played a lot of zone defense a year ago and now they haven't played zone all year.
Interesting enough, Texas' defensive style is a lot more like UCLA's so the young Bruin basketball team will be somewhat familiar playing against the intense pressure that the Longhorns are going to want to bring.
The Longhorns now on double ball screens and double the post with their quickness and athleticism making it hard for anyone to deal with, not to mention a team that is going to have to count on some youth if they are going leave Austin with a win.
This young basketball team has to stay poised against a very athletic and experienced Texas team. If the Bruins make a couple of turnovers and the home crowd starts to get into it, they cannot get rattled. Team composure is a key component if the Bruins are going to pass this very important out of conference game.
This will be a good contest for UCLA's very talented freshmen to grow up a little. The home crowd in Austin is going to be very much into the game and that will make it interesting for this young Bruin basketball team.
How the Bruins, handle a very good Texas team that some feel could be the best team in the tough Big 12 and on the road will tell exactly where this basketball team is.
UCLA head basketball coach thinks Texas is not just one of the best teams in the Big 12, but in the country.
"It would not surprise me at all if Texas is playing in Detroit come April," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "That's how good I think they are."
Like all good and experienced basketball teams, especially when they are playing at home, the Longhorns are going to want to come out in front of their crowd and give the Bruins a good old fashioned beat down.
UCLA can ill-afford to over dribble against a defense like Texas. If the Bruins don't take care of the basketball they could end up turning the ball over a lot and that would not bode well to winning the game.
Bruin senior forward Josh Shipp (6-5, 220) will try and guard junior swingman Damion James (6-7, 222). The talented Texas junior averages 14.5 points per game (ppg) and 8.9 rebounds per game (rpg). Another thing to beware of is James is an outstanding offensive rebounder so the Bruins will have to keep him off the glass.
The Bruins will also have to be mindful of senior guard A.J. Abrams (5-11, 161). He is the leading scorer for the Horns, averaging 15.8 ppg.
Coming off the bench the Longhorns have a very talented sophomore in Gary Johnson (6-6, 233). Johnson like most of the Texas team is extremely athletic and can pose a multitude of problems. He averages 10.8 ppg and is the team's second leading rebounder behind James, with an average 7.8 boards a game.
Win or lose, this game will show UCLA how they stack against one of the best teams in the nation and on the road. This crowd is going to be much more boisterous than the crowds in Madison Square Garden where the Bruins played in the Coaches versus Cancer Tournament.