UC Santa Barbara-UCLA Preview

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Second-ranked UCLA will try to build on its best start in a decade when the unbeaten Bruins play host to UC Santa Barbara in a nonconference game Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.

UCLA (10-0) hasn't won 11 in a row at any point in a season since March 2008. The Bruins are off to their best start since beginning the 2006-07 season with 14 consecutive wins. That team went on to reach the Final Four. This team has even higher aspirations.

"Sky's the limit," freshman point guard Lonzo Ball said. "As long as we defend, who knows what the limit is. We're going for a championship this year. That's the goal and we don't play to lose."

UC Santa Barbara (1-6) is struggling in its 19th season under coach Bob Williams. The Gauchos lost five in a row to start the season, including a 96-72 loss to USC, before beating Sonoma State to secure their first victory. They are coming off a 77-68 loss to San Diego.

"We've just got to be better," Williams said. "We weren't very good offensively or defensively after the first few minutes of the game. We got off to a good start, but then we couldn't make a shot, and, on the other end, we gave up too many open looks. That's got to change."

It will take an inspired effort for UC Santa Barbara to slow a UCLA squad that ranks second in the nation in scoring at 97.5 points per game. The Bruins lead the nation in assists (239), assists per game (23.9), field-goal percentage (.562) and 3-point shooting (.471). They are on pace to break their Pac-12 Conference record of 92.3 points per game in 1967-68.

UCLA vaulted from No. 11 to No. 2 after beating then-No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 3. The Bruins followed that performance with a resounding 102-84 victory over Michigan in which they shot a sizzling 74 percent in the second half.

"I couldn't be more pleased after scoring 97 points against Kentucky and scoring 102 against what I think is a very sound defensive team in Michigan," UCLA coach Steve Alford said.

Isaac Hamilton is leading UCLA in scoring at 17.7 points per game. He is shooting 51.5 percent from the field and 45.6 percent from 3-point range.

Hamilton is one of six players who are scoring in double figures for the Bruins. T.J. Leaf is averaging 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds. Bryce Alford averages 15.6 points. Ball is averaging 15 points, 8.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds. He is second in the nation in assists and the only player in the country who is averaging at least 15 points, eight assists and five rebounds.

Aaron Holiday averages 13.3 points for UCLA. Thomas Welsh is averaging 11.1 points and 9.6 rebounds.

UC Santa Barbara is led by Gabe Vincent, a guard who averages 17.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. Vincent had a season-high-tying 23 points in the loss to San Diego. Jalen Canty is averaging 11.3 points and a team-high 7.1 rebounds for the Gauchos.