UCLA Coach Ben Howland complains to a referee on November 28. ( Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Cal State Northridge Coach Bobby Braswell expected UCLA to play zone defense when the basketball teams played Wednesday night at Pauley Pavilion.
"But we didn't expect that they would use it all 40 minutes," Braswell said.
Just about no one did. UCLA Coach Ben Howland abhors that defensive scheme.
But after the Bruins beat the Matadors, 82-56, Howland said his team will play it more often, partly because it could help his players stay out of foul trouble.
At the beginning of the season, foul trouble wasn't an issue for UCLA. But after losing two players — Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith — in the last week, it has become one.
Now, the Bruins will see how their zone stacks up against No. 23 San Diego State, which they face Saturday in a 7 p.m. game at the Honda Center in the John R. Wooden Classic.
Good news for UCLA: A zone allows open three-point shots, but the Aztecs (4-1) rank last in the Mountain West Conference in making them (27%).
"I would play zone against us, also," Aztecs Coach Steve Fisher said this week.
But San Diego State is a physical, athletic, veteran squad, and its top four scorers are upperclassmen, led by junior guard Jamaal Franklin, who is averaging 18.6 points a game.
"When we're intense and active, it's good for us," UCLA's Travis Wear said of the zone. "We're long and we don't really have a dominant inside presence, but we can use our quickness to affect shots."
It also could help UCLA get out on the fastbreak, and Fisher said that UCLA "will be the best running team that we will have played to date."