The UCLA Bruins have stayed toe-to-toe with the 23rd-ranked San Diego State Aztecs in the Honda Center for the Wooden Classic, exchanging leads with the kids from down south, but ultimately trailing after 20 minutes, 31-29.
The Bruins began the game in the 2-3 zone to offset a sound SDSU attack led by Jamaal Franklin and, thus far, it has worked, as UCLA has held the Aztecs to just 40 percent shooting, although Deshawn Stevens and Franklin have combined for 15 points off of 6-for-10 shooting in the first period.
Offensively, UCLA is not getting the consistent push the team got against Cal State Northridge, but is attacking the rim aggressively. Namely, Shabazz Muhammad has gone right at the San Diego State interior and as a result, he’s got a team-high eight points off of six shots. Norman Powell has also done a solid job staying out on the perimeter and getting open threes, drilling two of three attempts so far and tying Muhammad for eight points on one less shot.
What’ll be key going into the second half: Can SDSU figure out how to play UCLA’s zone? They’ve seemingly forgot to dribble-penetrate to collapse the defense (we call that “pulling a Howland”) and as a result, their offense has suffered. Also of concern is UCLA’s consistent attack in the paint, as this team has waned in second halves at times this season.
These questions will be answered soon enough.