Tonight, the UCLA men’s basketball team travels across town to face the Southern Cal Trojans. This is the game many of us have been waiting for all season. That’s because the Trojans have a four-game winning streak against the Bruins. I also think Southern Cal’s 13-game winning streak to start the season got their program some attention at the expense of the Bruins, even though UCLA’s schedule was clearly the tougher one of the two.
More recently, Andy Enfield’s squad defeated Pacific on Tuesday night, 74-68. That’s not exactly a great win considering the fact that the Tigers aren’t ranked. Last weekend in Arizona, Southern Cal defeated Arizona State, 58-53, to start the weekend, but then they dropped Saturday’s game against Arizona, 73-62.
Let’s look at the Southern Cal starting five.
Southern Cal has more question marks tonight than you would expect for a Top 25 team this late in the season. The biggest question mark for the Trojans is whether or not junior forward Isaiah Mobley will play tonight. Mobley missed Tuesday’s game against Pacific due to a “non-displaced nasal fracture.” That’s essentially a broken nose where the bone has cracked but maintained its alignment.
It would make sense that Enfield would sit Mobley against Pacific with this injury. The assumption was that the Trojans wouldn’t need him in a non-conference game against an unranked opponent. However, tonight’s game is a different story. Tonight’s game is a conference game which will help determine seeding in the Pac-12 Tournament and Enfield needs his guys on the floor. Mobley may sit again, but my money is on him playing with a clear plastic face mask like Ed O’Bannon wore when back in the day when he broke his nose. They would miss Mobley’s production too much. He leads the team with 14.7 points per game. Of course, the reason why he leads the team in scoring is because he is the Trojans’ best three-point shooter with a 39.4% three-point average. He also leads the team in rebounds with an average of 8.5 per game and steals with 20 for the season. He’s also second in blocks with 22. So, losing his overall production would make it a lot tougher for Southern Cal to try to win tonight’s game.
The second question mark comes from the season-long platoon Enfield has had going on between guard Ethan Anderson and forward Max Agbonkpolo. Since the third game of the season, these two have each started alternating games. Even when Southern Cal had a few games postponed by COVID, Enfield kept the platoon going as scheduled. He hasn’t deviated from alternating these guys once.
That would seem to indicate that Anderson will start tonight, but with tonight’s game being an important one, will it be a situation where Enfield opts to be less predictable? We’ll see.
On paper, Agbonkpolo is better statistically in almost every category. The only category which Anderson outperforms him is in assists. With Agbonkpolo having started on Tuesday, it would seem that Anderson will get the start tonight, but we’ll have to see about this, too. Ultimately, it may not matter who starts. Each of these guys is playing about 20 minutes per game. So, you could argue that they are splitting each game equally.
The rest of the Trojan starters are all averaging in double figures in points. Junior guard Boogie Ellis is second on the team in points per game behind Mobley with 12.8. He is right behind Mobley in steals as well with 19.
Redshirt senior forward Chevez Goodwin is third on the team in points per game with 11.9. He’s also second on the team in rebounds per game with 6.8 per game. Just don’t look for him to shoot the ball from three. He hasn’t taken a single shot from behind the arc all year. I expect to see him taking almost all his shots inside the paint.
The final Trojan in double figures in senior guard Drew Peterson. Peterson averages 10.9 points per game while also leading the team in assists. He is also third on the team in rebounds, blocks and steals.
In the event that Mobley cannot play, look for Enfield to turn to Isaiah White. White is the guy who started on Tuesday against the Tigers, but he didn’t do much, scoring just two points and grabbing one rebound in 16 minutes. It’s always possible that Enfield could turn to Reese Dixon-Waters who managed to scored nine points in 17 minutes against the Tigers.
Tonight’s game looks like a better fight than some of the MMA contests ESPN is airing before the game. Both teams should have had this one circled on their calendar at the start of the season and I expect it to live up to expectations for a great matchup.
Ultimately, the Bruins will win this one as payback for the last four losses, though it might even take overtime to do it.
TuneIn.com now has UCLA’s games listed as “premium” content. So, rather than using TuneIn, you can just listen through the official website like we have done with the small sports for a long time in order to listen to Josh Lewin and Tracy Murray call today’s game, but why would you want to? Yes, you guessed it! National treasure Bill Walton is working the game again tonight with Dave Pasch on the ESPN. How could you not want to listen to Big Red? But if you don’t, just be sure to right-click on it so that you can open up another tab and have it going while you chat in the comments below. Listen to today’s game online.
In the meantime, here’s how to watch tonight’s game:This is your #12 UCLA Bruins at the #21 Southern Cal Trojans game thread.
Opponent: Southern Cal Trojans (20-4, 9-4)
Series Record: UCLA leads, 143-113
When: 7:00 pm PT, Saturday, February 12, 2022
Where: Galen Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN with Dave Pasch and Bill Walton
Live Stream: WatchESPN.com and the ESPN app
Radio: AM 1150 in Los Angeles with Josh Lewin and Tracy Murray
Satellite Radio: Sirius Ch. 134 and XM Ch. 197 (UCLA Call)
Live Stats: UCLA StatBroadcast
Go Bruins!!! Beat $c!
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