Two teams that are finally hitting the road for the first time this season meet up in the Empire State on Monday night, as the Georgetown Hoyas clash with the UCLA Bruins in the semifinals of the 2012 Progressive Legends Classic.
The Bruins have enjoyed the comforts of the refurbished Pauley Pavilion, after having been forced to play their home games last season at two nearby venues. Already this year the squad has victories over Indiana State, UC Irvine and James Madison, the last two as part of this tournament. For head coach Ben Howland, this is the sixth time in 10 seasons that his UCLA club has started off 3-0.
The better news for UCLA is that they've gotten off to a fast start without freshman Shabazz Muhammad who was initially ruled ineligible by the NCAA after it was determined the heralded prospect received nearly $1,600 in impermissible benefits during the recruiting process. Late last week Muhammad was reinstated after serving a three-game suspension.
As for the Hoyas, members of the Big East Conference, they are 2-0 on the young season after taking out Duquesne and Liberty in a pair of home dates, but the squad won those games by a mere 15 points combined.
The Bruins won both previous meetings between these two squads, the most recent being a narrow 71-70 final in Washington back in 2003.
The winner of this contest will go up against the survivor of the Georgia/Indiana tussle on Tuesday for the tournament title.
UCLA had very little trouble with the Dukes in the most recent outing, shooting a staggering 67.6 percent from the field in the first half, including 6-of-7 beyond the arc, giving the team a massive 63-29 edge at the break en route to the 30-point victory. Norman Powell paced five players in double figures as he tallied 27 points, followed by Jordan Adams with 25 points off the bench. Fellow reserve Tony Parker responded with 12 points, Joshua Smith added 11 and David Wear 10 points, while Kyle Anderson made up for his miserable 1-of-10 shooting performance by pulling down 12 rebounds for the group. While it is still early, the Bruins have exploded with 88.7 ppg, thanks in large part to Adams who has made good on 55.9 percent from the floor for his 24.0 ppg. Better yet, Adams has also knocked down all but one of his 29 free throws (.966) and the team is averaging slightly more than 30 trips to the charity stripe per game.
One would think that playing at home in the Verizon Center and facing an opponent like Liberty would be cause for celebration, and yet the Hoyas very nearly allowed the Flames to burn them last week. With four players scoring in double figures Georgetown was able to forge a comfortable double-digit lead at the break, but shooting only 36.4 percent from the floor and 1-of-9 beyond the arc in the second half only make it more confusing. Greg Whittington came up a rebound shy of a double-double as he tallied 18 points for the Hoyas, followed by fellow starters Mikael Hopkins and Nate Lubick with 13 points apiece and a combined 13 boards. Off the bench the squad got some added punch from D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera who dropped in another 11 points, but other than that the rest of the reserves combined for just five points. After two games Smith- Rivera leads a quartet of double-digit scorers with his 15.0 ppg, shooting at a 64.3 percent clip from the field. As a group the Hoyas have converted 45.5 percent from the floor, but beyond the arc they are down to 25.8 percent.