UCLA coach Ben Howland hopes tonight goes better than Friday evening.
“We’re stuck in traffic here in Oakland,” Howland said by cell phone on a media teleconference call.
When it was suggested the Bay Area was just trying to make him feel at home, where the L.A. traffic is legendary, Howland said, “This is worse than that. This is literally bumper to bumper, going nowhere.”
By tipoff tonight, Howland’s concerns will turn to disarming Cal’s offense.
He said the Bruins ran through a brisker-than-usual walk-thru Friday, trying to familiarize themselves for what he counted to be 27 different offensive sets the Bears run.
“You can’t do them all,” Howland said.
UCLA beat Cal 81-66 a month ago, but the Bruins’ coach isn’t sure that matters much tonight.
“They’re really, really good in transition. To be the leading 3-point shooting team in the country says a lot right there,” Howland said. “They put a lot of pressure on you. (Jerome) Randle is so good in the open court, pushing the ball, and he has 27-foot (shooting) range.
“(Patrick) Christopher played great (Thursday) night. (Theo) Robertson is the leading 3-point shooter individually in the country. I think their inside guys, (Jamal) Boykin and (Jordan) Wilkes and (Harper) Kamp are doing a very good job. It’s going to be a very tough matchup.”
A month ago, the Bruins were playing some of the best defense in the country. They allowed teams to score just 60.6 points per game while assembling a 19-4 record through 23 games.
The past five games, UCLA is surrendering 77.4 ppg and is just 2-3.
“Overall, our defense in the conference has not been as good as it needs to be,” Howland said earlier in the week.
On Friday, after beating Stanford 76-71, Howland suggested the Cardinal hit some tough, contested shots early while forcing a 14-point first-half lead.
“We weathered the storm and fought back,” he said. “I thought Stanford really came out with a lot of fire. I’m very pleased that we were able to keep our composure and come back.”
THREE-WAY SHOOTERS: According to NCAA statistics through games played on Thursday, Cal is the only team ranked among the nation’s top 15 in field goal, free throw and 3-point percentage.
The Bears are first in 3-point accuracy at 44.2 percent, sixth in field-goal shooting at 49.1 percent and 13th from the FT line at 75.8 percent.
SHIPP SHAPE: UCLA senior Josh Shipp is the Pac-10’s No. 2 active career scorer, but he also remains No. 2 in his family. For now, anyway.
Former Cal star Joe Shipp (2000-03) ranks third on the Bears’ all-time list with 1,666 points. Josh, on the heels of a 24-point performance Thursday at Stanford, is at 1,604 points — just 62 behind big brother.
KEEFE TO PLAY: UCLA senior reserve forward James Keefe, who experienced back spasms Thursday morning and did not play at Stanford, saw a chiropractor Friday morning, practiced with the team and should play tonight, Howland said.
LAST TIME: The Bruins forced Cal into a season-high 21 turnovers, which they transformed into 26 points on the way to an 81-66 victory at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 29. The Bears shot 9-for-15 from 3-point range, but only 13-for-20 from the FT line and got pounded 34-23 on the boards. The guard tandem of Randle and Christopher shot a combined 6-for-18, totaling just 17 points. UCLA got double-digit scoring from five players, led by point guard Darren Collison’s 18 points.
TIPOFF: 6 p.m. Saturday, Haas Pavilion, Berkeley.
TV: ESPN. RADIO: 1550 AM.
NOTES: If the Bears beat UCLA, they’ll have defeated every team in the Pac-10 at least once this season. Except Oregon State . . . The Bears will salute fourth-year junior center Jordan Wilkes during a pre-game “senior day” ceremony. Wilkes announced a couple weeks ago he is graduating and does not plan to utilize his final season of eligibility. So UCLA, where his father Jamaal was an All-America forward in the early 1970s, will be his final opponent at Haas Pavilion. The Bears have no other senior players on their roster . . . Randle shot 6-for-6 from the FT line vs. USC, improving his season percentage to 88.0. But he still ranks just fourth in the Pac-10, behind UCLA’s Darren Collison (92.6), Washington State’s Taylor Rochestie (90.4) and Oregon’s TaJuan Porter (89.8) . . . Randle had eight assists against the Trojans, giving him 350 for his career, eighth on the school’s all-time list . . . Cal is 16-1 at home after going a combined 19-15 the past two seasons . . . UCLA has won eight of the past nine meetings with Cal.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
Cal (21-7, 10-5):
PF Jamal Boykin, 6-8, Jr., 10.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg
SF Theo Robertson, 6-5, Jr., 12.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg
C Jordan Wilkes, 7-0, Jr., 5.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg
SG Patrick Christopher, 6-5, Jr., 15.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg
PG Jerome Randle, 5-10, Jr., 17.7 ppg, 5.0 apg
UCLA (21-7, 10-5):
PF Nikola Dragovic, 6-9, Jr., 8.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg
SF Josh Shipp, 6-5, Sr., 13.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg
C Alfred Aboya, 6-9, Sr., 10.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg
SG Jrue Holiday, 6-3, Fr., 9.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg
PG Darren Collison, 6-0, Sr., 14.8 ppg, 4.9 apg