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MBB Preview: UCLA at Wells Fargo Center

Graduate+guard+Justin+Moore+was+held+to+four+points+in+the+loss+to+Drexel.
Ryan Sarbello/Villanovan Photography
Graduate guard Justin Moore was held to four points in the loss to Drexel.

The Wildcats will return to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. to take on UCLA, the 2023–24 schedule’s only Pac-12 foe.

After a loss to Drexel placed Villanova (6–4) sixth in last weekend’s Big Five Classic, the Wildcats fell in overtime to Kansas State University, 72–71, on the road Tuesday night.

Head coach Mick Cronin’s Bruins head to Philadelphia after scraping by UC Riverside, 66–65, on Thursday, Nov. 30. The victory increased UCLA’s overall record to 5–2.

Scouting the Bruins

The historically strong UCLA program is used to national recognition, with two consecutive Sweet 16 finishes and a Final Four appearance in the last three years. The Bruins ended last season with a 31–6 overall record and a perfect 17–0 home record.

UCLA has yet to face a fellow Pac-12 team this season. The Bruins currently stand sixth in the conference in overall record.

The Bruins collected both of their losses during the Allstate Maui Invitational on Nov. 20–22, falling to No. 4 Marquette by two points and No. 11 Gonzaga by four. Gonzaga and Marquette are the only ranked teams UCLA has played this season.

As a team, the Bruins are shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 31.3 from three.

Freshman guard Sebastian Mack is UCLA’s leading scorer, averaging 14.7 per game. Mack earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week last week following his standout performance in Maui, which included a 25-point performance against Marquette.

Closely behind the star rookie in points per game is 6’10 sophomore forward/center Adem Bona, who averages 13.4.

Another key player on the UCLA roster is sophomore guard Dylan Andrews, who leads the Bruins in assists, averaging 4.3 per game. Andrews can deliver in high-pressure situations, as he hit the game-winning shot last week against UC Riverside with less than four seconds to go.

Head Coach Kyle Neptune and the Wildcats will need to prepare to thwart a potent UCLA defense. The Bruins are allowing an average of 65 points per game. UCLA will also have a size advantage over Villanova, with five players on the roster standing 6’9 or taller.

Wells Fargo Redemption

The Wildcats are looking to shake off an underwhelming Big Five Classic with two non-conference matchups against Kansas State and UCLA.

Villanova saw improved three-point shooting against Kansas State, sinking five from behind the arc in the first ten minutes. However, offensive struggles afflicted the ‘Cats when graduate guard and second-leading scorer Justin Moore suffered a right knee sprain and did not return. Moore’s status for UCLA is unclear.

Especially with the prospect of missing Moore, redshirt senior forward Eric Dixon is Villanova’s offensive leader going into the UCLA game. Dixon totaled 21 points against Drexel and averages 14.8 per game in the 2023–24 season.

The Wildcats’ most accurate three-point shooter this season is graduate forward Tyler Burton. While Burton only shot 1–6 from three against Drexel, he leads the team in overall percentage, shooting 39%.

Back to the Wells Fargo Center against UCLA, Neptune and the Wildcats will seek to improve shooting percentage, especially from outside.

Despite the Big 5 upsets by Drexel, St. Joseph’s and Penn, the Wildcats have seen much better days this season. Defeating Memphis 79–63 for the Battle 4 Atlantis title on Nov. 4, the Wildcats demonstrated their offensive potential.

Series History

The Wildcats and the Bruins are familiar opponents, last meeting on Nov. 12, 2021 in an intense game in Los Angeles. The Bruins came out on top 86–77 in overtime. 

Since UCLA defeated Villanova in the 1971 NCAA Championship, the teams have split the series 3-3.

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About the Contributor
Katie Lewis, Co-Sports Editor
Katie Lewis is a sophomore from Miami, FL in her first year as Co-Sports Editor in 2024. From covering games to writing features and profiles, she loves to find the story behind Villanova sports. Pursuing her enthusiasm for writing and journalism in her studies at Villanova, Katie is double-majoring in English and Communication while concentrating in Writing and Rhetoric. When Katie isn’t at Holy Grounds working on her next article, she enjoys playing tennis with Villanova’s club team.
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