The 13th-ranked UCLA Bruins continue regional play in the Legends Classic, as they welcome the James Madison Dukes to the New Pauley Pavilion on Thursday evening.
Ben Howland's Bruins are already two games into the 2012-13 season and have posted two victories, albeit in vastly different manners. UCLA opened the year up with an 86-59 rout of Indiana State last Friday and followed that up on Tuesday with an 80-79 overtime thriller against UC Irvine.
This marks the season-opener for James Madison, as fifth-year head coach Matt Brady looks to put last season's injury-plagued 12-20 campaign in the rearview mirror. This year the hope is that the return of several veteran leaders along with a healthy roster, will push the Dukes back up the Colonial Athletic Association ladder.
This is the first time that these two teams have met on the hardwood.
The Dukes started the 2011-12 campaign with wins in seven of their first 11 games, but the wheels fell off the cart after that and injury after injury to key personnel sabotaged the season. The backcourt has plenty talent heading into the new campaign, headlined by senior guards A.J. Davis, Devon Moore and Alioune Diouf. Davis is the team's top returning scorer at 15.9 ppg and was tabbed a Preseason All-CAA Second-Team member. Moore (8.8 ppg) adds scoring punch along the perimeter. He missed a good portion of last season with eligibility issues early on and then a wrist injury later in the season. The frontcourt will be anchored by senior forwards Andrey Semenov and Rayshawn Goins. Semenov (10.2 ppg) is the top returning option up front, although Goins could become a go-to-guy in the post, after missing the entire season last year with a shoulder injury.
Sometimes luck plays a part in the outcome of a game and UCLA certainly got some against UC Irvine on Tuesday, as the team looked dead in the water when UCI's Will Davis II stepped to the free-throw line to shoot two with just two seconds remaining in regulation. Davis missed both however, and UCLA was able to survive in the extra session. The Bruins are still at less than full strength, as one of the nation's premier recruits, Shabbaz Muhhamad continues to work out his eligibility issues. However, another freshman, Jordan Adams picked up the slack against the Anteaters, pouring in 26 points, thanks in large part to a perfect 16-of-16 from the charity stripe. Davis Wear just missed a double-double with 13 point and nine rebounds, while brother Travis finished with 12 points and eight boards. Kyle Anderson and Larry Drew II added 10 points apiece, while Drew doled out a game-high eight assists.