GAME NOTES: Two teams still in the hunt in the Pac-12 Conference title race meet up at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday evening, as the UCLA Bruins play host to the Colorado Buffaloes.
Steve Alford's first season at the helm of the Bruins has gone pretty well. UCLA sits at an impressive 18-5 on the campaign, which includes a 7-3 mark in the Pac-12. The Bruins have won four of their last five games overall, including topping crosstown rival USC last weekend, 83-73.
Tad Boyle's Buffaloes have fought through some adversity of late and enter this game with a three-game win streak in tow. Colorado blasted Washington on Sunday, 91-65, to move to 7-4 in league play.
UCLA has dominated the all-time series with Colorado, winning seven of the previous eight matchups. That includes an earlier meeting in Boulder on Jan. 16 (69-56).
The Buffaloes have had to play shorthanded since mid-January, as leading scorer Spencer Dinwiddie (14.7 ppg) has been shelved with a knee injury. Still, the team has somehow found a way to assuage the heavy loss, as others have stood up and taken on greater roles. Junior guard Askia Booker has certainly been one of those players, currently averaging 14.2 ppg. Sophomore forward Josh Scott is close behind with 14.1 ppg and tops the team in rebounding with 8.8 rpg. Fellow sophomore forward Xavier Johnson (11.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg) provides another option up front.
Dinwiddie's offense wasn't needed in Colorado's 91-point eruption against the Huskies. Johnson paced the team with a double-double, posting 27 points and 10 rebounds. Scott just missed one of his own, finishing with 21 points and eight boards, while Booker poured in 20 points of his own. The Buffaloes took a 15- point lead into halftime (48-33) and never let up, shooting a sizzling .609 from the floor over the final 20 minutes to earn the lopsided victory.
UCLA would like nothing better than to turn this game into a shootout. The Bruins have the necessary personnel to thrive in that kind of atmosphere, averaging a gaudy 82.9 ppg (12th nationally), on an impressive .490 shooting. UCLA has also taken great care of the basketball with just 10.9 turnovers per game, while boasting of a strong +4.5 turnover margin. The scoring pool is deep with four Bruins currently at double digits, led by sophomore guard Jordan Adams and his 16.8 ppg. Sophomore forward Kyle Anderson may be the most valuable player on the roster though, as he produces across the board, with 15.1 points, 8.7 rebounds and a conference-best 6.7 assists per game. Junior guard Norman Powell adds 11.4 ppg to the mix, while freshman guard Zach LaVine chips in with 11.1 ppg off the bench.
UCLAshot just 40 percent from the floor overall, but did hit 10-of-20 shots from behind the arc and turned 15 USC turnovers into 20 points, as the Bruins earned a 10-point win over the Trojans. Powell led the team in scoring with 21 points, followed by Adams and his 17 points. Anderson had another tremendous all-around game, finishing with 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Travis Wear netted 11.
Colorado is starting to come together after the loss of Dinwiddie, but the Buffaloes haven't exactly thrived on the road this year. Expect the Bruins to get a balanced effort again, which should lead to victory for the hometown team.
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