How They Are Doing So Far:
UCLA is a perfect 6-0 at Pauley Pavilion. Away from Pauley Pavilion the Bruins are 0-2 with losses against Michigan State and North Carolina in Las Vegas. The competition at home has not been too difficult though and Notre Dame is certainly the best team to step foot on UCLA’s home floor to date this season. The Bruins are still growing under Coach Steve Alford with eight of their nine regular contributors being underclassmen. In a few months this will be a much better team, but for now the Bruins need to pick up some big wins so they can afford a few slipups in Pac-12 play.
Last Time Out:
Even with a dismal shooting display from beyond the arc, UCLA had no problem with Loyola Marymount on Sunday night. The Bruins got off to a strong start and cruised to an easy 82-58 victory. Sophomore Jaylin Hands recorded his first double-double of the season and there will likely be many more to come. He dished out ten assists and added 17 points, but wasn’t the only Bruin to record a double-double. Freshman Moses Brown added 12 points and ten rebounds and that is already his fourth double-double of the season. The 7-1 center also recorded three blocks against the Lions.
Who To Watch:
Sophomore Kris Wilkes is the team’s top scorer, averaging 17.5 points per game. He is the player Coach Alford leaves on the floor most of the time and the player who is expected to take all of the big shots. So far Wilkes has been very consistent and for such a young team, that is extremely important. He has never failed to score at least a dozen points in any game and many teams have a difficult time defending a 6-8 guard who can score from anywhere on the floor.
Who Else To Watch:
Even after Wilkes, Brown and Hands, the Bruins boast plenty of scoring threats. Junior Prince Ali is the elder statesman of the team and averages 9.9 points per game. He may not be as flashy as some of his bigger backcourt mates, but Ali does provide leadership on the perimeter. He is also a fine defender and his leadership cannot be underestimated. Chris Smith and Jules Bernard are a couple of those big, young guards. Smith had a tough game against North Carolina where he scored just seven points and grabbed three rebounds. Smith failed to reach double digits in the two games after the loss to the Tar Heels, but he can still do some great work on the glass. Bernard has not seen nearly as much playing time, but he has been productive when on the floor, most notably his 18 point, eight rebound effort against St. Francis.
This is a big game for both Notre Dame and UCLA. The Irish, coming off the loss to Oklahoma, need some resume building wins. They will have a shot against UCLA on Saturday and then the following weekend against Purdue. If they fail to beat the Bruins or Boilermakers, the most memorable thing about the Irish’s non-conference slate will be the loss to Radford. For the Bruins they have beaten up on some mid-majors and then lost to two very good teams. This will clearly be the toughest home game for the Bruins so far this season and, with a win over Notre Dame, they can show that they are closer to Michigan State and North Carolina instead of Hawaii and Long Beach State in the grand scheme of things.