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This could be the game of the week. The Arizona Wildcats have not lost a game in over a month, and the UCLA Bruins have only lost two games in two months.
Arizona is a contender to win March Madness. They have crushed most of their unranked opponents and are beating opponents by an average of 24.3 points per game. The Wildcats shoot and defend well, but their real strength is passing. They lead the nation with 21.3 assists per game.
UCLA plays good defense, but they cannot create the offensive scoring that Arizona creates. They have great guards in Johnny Juzang, Jules Bernard, Tyger Campbell, and Jamie Jacquez Jr but do not have as productive big men as Arizona.
|Tommy Lloyd||Head Coach||Mick Cronin|
|16-1 (6-0, 1st in PAC-12)||Standing||13-2 (5-1, 2nd in PAC-12)|
|Leader (Per Game)|
|Benedict Mathurin (17.5)||PPG||Johnny Juzang (18.3)|
|Christian Koloko (7.2)||RPG||Jaime Jaquez Jr. (5.6)|
|Kerr Kriisa (5.3)||APG||Tyger Campbell (4.3)|
|Dalen Terry (1.2)||SPG||Tyger Campbell (1.3)|
|Christian Koloko (3.2)||BPG||Myles Johnson (1.5)|
|Christian Koloko (.529)||FG%||Myles Johnson (.644)|
|Mwani Wilkinson (.640)||3P%||Tyger Campbell (.435)|
Arizona may be the most well-balanced team in the nation. They have great passing and scoring guards, and center Christian Koloko protects the rim well. However, Arizona has a tough matchup in UCLA and has to create turnovers and guard UCLA’s outside shot.
UCLA is an efficient shooting team. They shoot 45.4% from the field and 36.2% from behind the three-point line. The Wildcats cannot allow UCLA to keep on shooting, or they could find themselves in a hole quickly. Therefore, they have to look to steal the ball any way they can. This is a difficult task for Arizona; they only average 7.4 steals per game, not even in the top-100 of the NCAA.
UCLA will probably look to take more outside shots than usual this game. The Bruins are playing an Arizona team that averages 6.7 blocks per game, 3rd-best in the country. So the Arizona guards need to defend those outside shots well. If they do, they could stifle UCLA’s scoring.
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The Bruins have many of the same skill sets as the Wildcats. However, they are a little worse at shooting, passing, and defending. They are a smaller team than Arizona, so they need to play better defense and shoot better than they usually do. UCLA needs to focus on cutting off Arizona’s passing lanes and hitting outside shots.
Arizona scores almost 90 points per game. This is in large part due to their passing. They average 21.3 assists and have one guard, Kerr Kriisa, who averages 5.3 assists per game. UCLA needs to look to cut off Arizona’s passing lanes. If they do so, they will either create turnovers or force Arizona to take bad shots.
UCLA is a smaller team than Arizona and more guard-heavy. They will probably struggle to score at the rim, so they will be forced to take more outside shots. If they can find the open man and hit outside shots, they could pull away from Arizona. However, they will be in for a long night if they force up bad outside shots or cannot make many outside shots.
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Guard Benedict Mathurin is an all-around player. He averages 17.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in a team-leading 31.3 minutes per game. He also shoots very well, hitting 49.3% of his field-goal attempts and 38.6% of his three-point attempts.
Mathurin is the most impactful offensive player on this Arizona squad. He is a skilled shooter and can score near the hoop. However, the sophomore from Montreal will likely be guarding Johnny Juzang and may need to match his scoring for Arizona to stay in the game.
Defensively, Mathurin will need to have active hands and active feet when guarding Johnny Juzang.
Guard Johnny Juzang is building off a great season last year and having an even better season this year. He averages 18.3 points and 5.0 rebounds a game. He is very statistically similar to Benedict Mathurin but is more of an explosive scorer.
Juzang is a difficult player to guard. He is 6’6” with a 6’10.5” wingspan. Typically he would be guarded by smaller players, but Arizona’s Benedict Mathurin is also 6’6”. So Juzang will need to get creative and find ways to score on the similarly sized Mathurin.
Juzang is not traditionally much of a passer. However, he may need to pass to his open teammates more than usual.
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|No. 3 Arizona vs No. 9 UCLA|
|What||No. 3 Arizona vs No. 9 UCLA|
|Where||Pauley Pavilion, Los Angeles, California|
|When||Tuesday, January 25, 11:00 PM EST|
|How to Watch||ESPN|
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Max Heering graduated from the University of Kansas Sport Management program in May 2020. Max follows and writes about the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, MLS, college football, and college basketball. In his free time, you can catch Max draining threes on the basketball court. Email: [email protected]More info on Max Heering
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