When one of the Wear brothers has the game-high in scoring and dominated your team, you know you had a bad game. Not that the Wears are awful, quite the opposite, really. In the first meeting between UCLA (18-5, 7-3) and the California Golden Bears (17-8, 8-4), the Bruins were able to come away with a 76-64 victory, behind a solid 18-point, 7-rebound performance from David Wear. That game was supposed to be a battle for second in the conference and UCLA snagged the opportunity.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Location: Haas Pavilion, Berkeley, CA
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT/10:30 p.m. ET
Odds: Cal -1.5
Preview: There are two trends to watch for here:
Trend #1: UCLA has split both 2-game road trips in conference play, starting with a good win in game 1 and then falling flat on their face for a horrible loss in game 2.
Trend #2: In the last three games, albeit all of them were in Los Angeles, UCLA has started out flat to come back and defeat their opponent with ease in the second half.
Now here is a major factor that these trends need to be mindful of: improvement.
UCLA has gone from a decent team to a very good team that is still in the running for Pac-12 Championship. In both games 2 of their conference road trips, the Bruins were abysmal in the second half, which leads us to believe that Trend #2 could be at risk in the Bay Area.
Cal is looking for a top 4 position for the Pac-12 tournament, so they will do everything in their power to try to stay there and the #2 team in the conference is standing in their way.
Cal has not been doing the best this year. Even though they were the first team to beat undefeated Arizona, they did lose 80-69 at home to Stanford and gave USC their only conference win of the season. This is called inconsistency, folks.
The Bruins have dealt with this as well, but structurally, UCLA is much sounder than Cal. If anything, the last three Bruin games are a testament to that, which is why Trend #2 will continue.
Really bad first halves put the Bruins in a spot of trouble, but serious adjustments and good coaching (finally) have made UCLA the team to beat as of late.
The bottom line, UCLA needs to have a strong finish to this game, whether they start flat or on fire. UCLA is one game behind Arizona (with the tie-breaker going to the Wildcats), so with six games remaining, the Bruins need to aim for 6-0 the rest of the way and pray Arizona loses two more.
Eye on the prize, but one game at a time.
Prediction: UCLA 75 – Cal 68