Fri, 22 Jan 2021

UCLA gears up for home opener against Seattle

Field Level Media
03 Dec 2020, 07:55 GMT+10

UCLA has been dominated, overextended and then postponed in three scheduled games so far this season and is set to hit the court again Wednesday against Seattle University in what has become the Bruins' home opener.

UCLA (1-1) was supposed to open at Pauley Pavilion on Monday but the Bruins' game against Long Beach State was postponed because of COVID-19 concerns among the personnel of their cross-town opponent.

There was plenty of anticipation this season for UCLA, which opened with a No. 22 ranking after maturing defensively under head coach Mick Cronin last season. But the Bruins were humbled 73-58 on the road against San Diego State on Wednesday and then needed three overtimes to defeat Pepperdine on Friday.

If a game had to be postponed, one that came a few days after a triple-overtime affair qualifies as good timing.

"Three overtimes is definitely draining," UCLA guard Chris Smith said. "... Fifty minutes (of court time) is what it took to get a win. If I have to play 50 minutes every single night, I'm going to do it, as long as we come out with a win."

UCLA has been missing Cronin's desired defensive intensity so far and that is with a team that is largely intact from the one that went 11-3 down the stretch last season. The Bruins worked their way into NCAA Tournament consideration thanks to improved defense, before the season was halted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Smith leads UCLA with 18.0 points per game, but the senior continues to deal with turnover issues that have plagued his college career. He has averaged 3.0 per game so far. On Tuesday he was named to the Wooden Award preseason watch list.

The Bruins are expected to have forward Jalen Hill (knee) on the court for the first time, while Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang (foot) could play for the first time as well.

Seattle (3-1) will enter after a 76-65 defeat to Cal State Northridge at Las Vegas on Monday. Darrion Trammell had 25 points for the Redhawks and is tied with Riley Grigsby for the team lead with 18.3 points per game. Kobe Williamson has 7.0 rebounds per game.

Like UCLA, Seattle is appreciative for a little down time. They did not play Tuesday or Wednesday after playing Northridge one day after the Redhawks crushed Air Force 63-45.

"We did not respond well to our first opportunity to play back-to-back games," Seattle head coach Jim Hayford said. "Northridge was the more aggressive team and basketball will always reward that. The season is young, and we will use this to get better."

--Field Level Media

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