UCLA vs. Arizona: Position breakdown

Arizona fell in a trap game vs. USC, while UCLA survived ASU in OT on Wednesday. With the Bruins a half game back of Oregon and Arizona and Cal right behind, the pressure is on in UCLA’s finale at Pauley. Rahshaun Haylock takes a position-by-position look at Saturday’s matchup.

G: Mark Lyons vs Larry Drew II
Drew II is more of a facilitator than Lyons. The Wildcats senior leads the team in scoring averaging 15.2 points per game. He had 16 in the first meeting between the two teams but also five turnovers and no assists. UCLA head coach Ben Howland doesn’t expect a repeat performance from the Wildcats lead guard. Drew II has grown as a defender over the course of the season and has showed the ability to slow down the oppositions lead guard. Drew II has the capability to affect the game without scoring a point more than any other player in the country.

G Nick Johnson vs Jordan Adams
It’s clear Adams has broken out of his slump. Similar to how he started his career, he’s scored 20 or more points in each of his last three outings. Johnson led the Wildcats with 23 points in the first meeting and led the Wildcats’ spirited second half comeback. Both are capable of having huge games.

F Kevin Parrom vs Shabazz Muhammad
Muhammad tweaked an ankle on Wednesday against Arizona State. The injury is worse than originally expected but it won’t keep him out of the lineup on Saturday. He dropped 23 on the Wildcats in the first meeting. Sold out crowd. National TV. Muhammad shines in the biggest settings.
THE EDGE: Muhammad

F  Solomon Hill vs Kyle Anderson
There are some that believe Hill was the best player in the conference last season. He was consistent and his 12 double-doubles in 2011-12 backed it up. He’s been a consistent double figure scorer this season but surprisingly, he has just one double-double on the season. That, of course, came in the first meeting against UCLA. Anderson is coming off of the best game of his career. Yet, the experience and savvy of the senior will be critical.

C/F Kaleb Tarczewski vs Travis Wear
Tarczewski was a non factor in the first meeting –no points and one rebound in 15 minutes. These days he’s playing his best ball of the season. After missing the last two games with a foot injury, Wear is probable for Saturday. In the last meeting, he had his way before leaving  with a concussion. Tony Parker followed with, what at the time, was his best performance of the season. David Wear played great as well with 15 points, which is the most he’s put up in a conference game this season.

Both teams go about eight deep. On the Bruins side, you know what you’re going to get –a lot of David Wear, some of Tony Parker, and mix in Norman Powell. In the first meeting, those three outclassed the Arizona bench 25-12. Former La Verne Lutheran star Grant Jerrett can stretch the floor with his shooting and should be comfortable being back at home. Brandon Ashley has started 21 of 28 games this season. His 52.9% field goal percentage is the best among the Arizona regulars.
THE EDGE: Arizona

Coach Sean Miller vs Ben Howland
Who has the toughest job leading up to Saturday’s matchup? Is it Miller, who’s team fell earlier this week at Galen Center in a trap game? Or is it Howland, who has to keep his young team’s emotions in check before playing their biggest game of the season? By the way, he has to do so in the confines of a national TV audience and the early morning pregame festivities that come along with that. The Wildcats are 3-3 in their last six. Howland, meanwhile has been extremely flexible this season. The Bruins are running more than any other time in his tenure and just recently he dialed back on the playcalling. So far, it’s worked.
THE EDGE: Howland

The Bruins have had their fair share of bad losses this season. With the exception of their loss to Oregon earlier this season, the Bruins have stepped up huge on the largest stages and not shied away from the moment. A huge reason for their win in Tucson earlier this season was rebounding. It was the last time the Bruins have outrebounded an opponent. Earlier this week against Arizona State they showed a maturity and toughness to win a hard fought game. That will carry over into Saturday in front of a sellout crowd at new Pauley Pavilion.