Los Angeles, CA – A week ago this meeting would have been a battle between a pair of nationally-ranked programs from the Golden State, but that is no longer the case as 23rd-ranked San Diego State takes on the UCLA Bruins in the John R. Wooden Classic at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
UCLA, which began the season ranked 13th in the nation and moved as high as 11th in the Associated Press Poll, lost some traction with a setback versus Georgetown and then lost a bevy of votes when it bowed to Cal Poly (70-68) at home last weekend. More recently, the Bruins blew away Cal State Northridge, 82-56, on Wednesday, the same day it was announced that Joshua Smith had been given his release.
As for the Aztecs, they remain one of the favorites to contend for the title in the Mountain West Conference again this season and while they did fall to nationally-ranked Syracuse in the opener on the deck of the U.S.S. Midway, the team has rattled off four consecutive victories. The most recent triumph came last weekend at USC, as SDSU survived with a 66-60 decision.
UCLA leads the all-time series between the programs by a count of 16-5, winning eight straight heading into this meeting. The last encounter took place back in 1991 at the San Diego Sports Arena where the Bruins delivered an 84-64 win. For the Aztecs, the eight-game slide is the longest for the program against any single opponent.
However, on a positive note for SDSU, the team owns a winning streak of 25 in a row over programs from the state of California, the longest run of any team in the nation by far.
Injuries put the run of success for the Aztecs against California-based teams in jeopardy last week as the squad hit the floor without Chase Tapley, who was suffering from a sprained ligament in his knee, as well as losing DeShawn Stephens during the meeting with a hip pointer. The good news is that San Diego State still played well enough to pull out the win, albeit by just six points. Jamaal Franklin and James Rahon both finished with a game-high 17 points, while Xavier Thames and JJ O'Brien accounted for 14 and 12 points, respectively. Skylar Spencer, who played 30 minutes but logged just two points, added career-high 11 boards. Franklin, considered one of the top players in the MWC again this year, is averaging a double-double at the moment with his 18.6 ppg and 10.6 rpg, which makes you wonder why he continues to pursue the three-point shot (5-of-25), which has yet to be beneficial for the Aztecs. As a team, SDSU is shooting a mere 26.7 percent from beyond the arc, but at least that's still better than the competition which has converted only 23.2 percent, en route to 53.2 ppg.
Norman Powell scored a game-high 17 points off the bench, leading four players in double figures, as the UCLA Bruins delivered a 26-point victory over Cal State Northridge in a non-conference battle at Pauley Pavilion. Kyle Anderson logged 15 points for the Bruins (5-2), Travis Wear had 14 and Shabazz Muhammad tacked on 13 points to go along with nine rebounds for the hosts. Larry Drew II took just three shots from the floor over 32 minutes, instead turning his attention to getting his teammates involved in the action with a career-high 13 assists. Despite scoring only eight points against CSUN, the second time in the last three outings he has failed to reach double digits, Jordan Adams continues to be the team's leading scorer with 17.0 ppg as he has converted all but one of his 36 free-throw attempts. Muhammad, who missed several games to start the season due to issues with the NCAA, is now second with 16.0 ppg and is among the team leads with 6.0 rpg as well. Drew III doesn't do much in the way of scoring with 5.1 ppg, but his 57 assists has him among the nation's elite in that category. Even more impressive is the fact that Drew III has a mere nine turnovers.