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January 25, 2014

UCLA to face sizeable challenge in Cal

The Bruins will face second-place California, which boasts a 5-1 conference record, only recently losing its first Pac-12 conference game to USC earlier this week.

The Golden Bears' success in conference play has been marked by its diverse offensive scheme, which consists of point guard Justin Cobbs and 6-foot-10 forward Richard Solomon, who have averaged a combined 27.2 points per game in their senior seasons.

Solomon, who also averages 10.4 rebounds per game, is complemented by 6-foot-9 junior forward David Kravish, who averages 7.5 rebounds in addition to his 11.6 points per game.

Those are distressing numbers for UCLA, whose two front-court starters, David and Travis Wear, average a collective 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

"Solomon's been terrific all along," UCLA head coach Steve Alford said Saturday. "He's extremely athletic, very bouncy. He attacks the ball. Kravish has a really good touch … and he's an excellent foul-shooter. You're talking about a big man who's 86 percent from the line. Those are just two bigs that demand an awful lot of attention."

In their effort to tend to Cal's bigs, the Bruins turn their attention to sophomore center Tony Parker.

Filling in for David Wear, who played limited minutes due to illness, Parker exploded for a career-high 22 points in a personal conference-high 28 minutes in UCLA's most recent conference victory over Stanford on Thursday.

"Tony is coming off one of his better games; we have to have that inside presence," Alford said. "Our inside presence has got to be known not just defensively but we have to be able to get the ball inside and do the things we did against Stanford to try to get an inside-outside game."

While Parker, who averages 8.0 points and 5.3 rebounds, has had a few standout performances for UCLA this season, he has yet to establish consistency on the offensive end. Furthermore, his tendency to pick up fouls, particularly on the defensive end, have marred his development.

On three different occasions this season, Parker has fouled out in less than 15 minutes on the court.

"He didn't really play last year so this is his first go-around," Alford said of Parker, who is averaging nearly 20 minutes per game after playing 6.3 minutes per game in his freshman campaign. "He just has to continue to watch tape, continue to learn, continue to fight in practice, and do the things he's been doing as far as pushing himself to get better every day."

While UCLA will rely on Parker to hold down the frontcourt on Sunday, he won't be on his own in crashing the boards against Solomon and Kravish.

Point guard Kyle Anderson, who averages 8.8 rebounds per game, will aid Parker and the Wear brothers in the paint when he shifts into the frontcourt. Averaging the closest to a triple-double in the nation (15.4 pts, 8.8 reb, 6.7 ast), Anderson is one of 25 players to recently be named to the John R. Wooden Award midseason watch list.

The Bruins have also been receiving help on the glass from lead-scoring sophomore guard Jordan Adams, who has corralled more than 10 rebounds in two out of UCLA's six conference games.

Whether it's Adams, Anderson, Parker, an amalgamation of the three, or some unforeseen hero, the Bruins hope they can outduel Cal in the paint.

Their ability to do so may just swing the outcome of Sunday's game.


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