Monday, 20 November 2017 15:15

On the Road Again For UCLA Hoops

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UCLA Hoops UCAIt’s back on the road again for UCLA (3-0) to play an undefeated Creighton (3-0) team in Kansas City, MO., in the Hall Of Fame Classic. The Bruins have held on their national ranking of 18 in the Coaches Poll and 23 in the AP.

UCLA is coming off a tough road trip to China and before they could get their sea legs back played two games at Pauley with only one day’s rest between the games in Westwood.

UCLA's success during the controversy in China, and winning games when not fully rested, tends to help a team get mental toughness. Now UCLA’s mettle will be tested once again.

The growth of true freshmen guards Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes has been outstanding. Hands led UCLA in scoring against South Carolina State with a career-best, 22 points. Wilkes led the Bruins in scoring against Georgia Tech and was second in scoring against Central Arkansas.

The Bruins have outstanding veteran leadership with junior point guard Aaron Holiday and senior center Thomas Welsh. The Bruin big man is coming off two straight double-doubles.

What makes this team intriguing is its blend veterans and youth. Five players that are getting serious minutes didn’t play on last season’s Sweet 16 team.

Besides Hands and Wilkes, the Bruins are getting productive minutes out of freshman guard Chris Smith and redshirt sophomores, forward Alex Olesinski and guard Prince Ali.

Creighton’s three victories have been over Yale 92-76, Alcorn State 109-72 and No. 20 Northwestern 92-88.

The Bluejays return nine lettermen from a team that won 25 games and made to the Big East Tournament final and their fourth NCAA Tournament invite in six seasons.

Creighton is led by senior guard Marcus Foster (6-3, 205) who is averaging 19.3 points per game (ppg) while hitting on 60.6 percent of his shots. He was a unanimous First Team All-BIG EAST pick last season when he averaged 18.2 ppg.

Junior guard Khyri Thomas (6-3, 210) comes into the game averaging 17.7 ppg and was named an Honorable Mention Preseason All-BIG EAST choice in October. Thomas was named BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year last season and scored a career-high 24 points in the win at Northwestern.

Sophomore forward Martin Krampelj (6-9, 220) has been solid averaging 12.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.

The Bluejays have a talented duo that is true freshmen in Mitch Ballock (6-5, 205) who chips in 8.7 ppg and Ty-Shon Alexander (6-4, 195) adds 8.0 ppg.

Creighton, as a team, is averaging 97.7 points per game this season, and are shooting 55.4 percent from the floor. The Bluejays are an outstanding 43.2 percent from beyond the arc.

CU is also tough on the glass and owns a +8.7 rebound margin and 57/39 assist/turnover ratio to date.

Tipoff is Monday evening at 4:00 PM PST and the venue will be the Sprint Center. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU. Clay Matvick will do the play-by-play and Fran Fraschilla will analyze the action

UCLA Sports Network from IMG will broadcast the game on AM 1150 with Josh Lewin and UCLA all-time great Tracy Murray performing in their usual roles.

UCLA will play either Baylor or Wisconsin on Tuesday evening. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 PM PST.

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