ANAHEIM, Calif. — Even though the basketball series between BYU and UCLA is tied 11-11, the Cougars have normally entered games against the Bruins feeling like the Davids trying to slay the Goliaths.
However, that won't be the case today when the two teams meet at the Honda Center in Anaheim in Game 2 of the John R. Wooden Classic. With BYU's No. 16/18 national ranking, the tables will be turned a little bit this time around.
Not that the Cougars (10-0) are by any means a college basketball Goliath, but they will be the ones carrying the big target on their backs today. The Bruins are 5-4 and have won two straight games and almost knocked off mighty Kansas earlier this season on the road, but they're still considered a young and developing bunch.
Last week's win by BYU over Arizona also gives UCLA a little Pac-10 revenge as motivation. Also, UCLA normally plays a little fired up when the name of the school's legendary coach is attached to the contest.
"They have some great players and some guys who can shoot the ball, so it should be a good test for us," BYU guard Jimmer Fredette said.
All week UCLA coach Ben Howland has been throwing out items to make sure his players understand exactly what they're up against. One thing he's using to motivate his team — comprised mainly of freshmen, sophomore and juniors — is that the Cougars are a mature and experienced team with five married players and eight returned missionaries.
But the Cougars are becoming quite comfortable at getting every team's best game. They know they're not going to catch any team by surprise these days.
"They are really athletic and really physical ... and this is a good stretch for us on our schedule, and if we come out on top it's going to be good for us," BYU center James Anderson said.
The Bruins present problems for BYU in many phases. Mainly, if any team can frustrate Fredette, coming off a season-high 33 points against Arizona and averaging nearly 24 points per game, it's UCLA.
"UCLA is a great defensive team. They always have been," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
So far, Fredette has been outstanding this season at dealing with extra attention.
"What he's really getting better at is his patience," Rose said. "He's just kind of back dribbling and getting a little more space. And when they run two guys at him he's getting that ball to the other side."
Which is exactly what Fredette did in last weekend's win over Arizona when the Wildcats tried to chase him down on a key second-half possession, and Fredette fed Logan Magnusson in the left corner who drilled a key 3-pointer.
"That really causes teams to make adjustments to how they're going to guard Jimmer," Rose said.
Fredette is not only expecting to be double and triple-teamed, he's welcoming it.
"It's hard to do that against us because we have such good shooters on our team," he said.
Another big challenge for the Cougars today is UCLA's depth and size. Besides the Bruins having three starters at 6-foot-8 or taller, the Cougars are thin and banged up on the front line. Chris Collinsworth (ankle sprain) will likely miss his seventh-straight game, and junior forward Noah Hartsock is listed as a game-time decision after suffering a first-half concussion against Arizona.
The Cougars match up pretty well with UCLA's backcourt of Lazeric Jones (10.9 ppg) and Malcom Lee (10.8 ppg), but to overcome the Bruins front line of Tyler Honeycutt (15.3 points and 8.4 rebounds per game), Reeves Nelson (13.8 ppg) and Joshua Smith (nine points and seven rebounds per game) the Cougars are going to need good outings once again from Brandon Davies, Logan Magnusson, Stephen Rogers and James Anderson.9 comments on this story
"They'll have a physical aggressive game plan for us, so we'll have to respond to it," Rose said.
Expect the Cougars to double-team UCLA's post players when the ball goes inside. Also, the Cougars will try to stay out of foul trouble by playing a lot of 2-3 zone defense. However, that might cause problems with UCLA's strength, which is hitting the boards.
"One thing that is hard for us to do is rebound out of that zone," Rose said.
John R. Wooden Classic
No. 16 BYU (10-0) vs. UCLA (5-4)
Today, 3:30 p.m.
Radio: 1160 AM 102.7 FM (delayed)