Villanova hosts UCLA for a Saturday night matchup at the Wells Fargo Center | Villanova vs. UCLA Preview
Written by David Szczepanski on December 9, 2023
Villanova heads to the Wells Fargo Center for a Saturday night matchup under the bright lights against UCLA. The Wildcats have lost three consecutive games, including two games to Philly Big 5 rivals, and they desperately need to get back into the win column. Villanova has hosted games at the Wells Fargo Center in every season since 1996 except for the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wildcats vs. Bruins All-time Series Info
The Wildcats and Bruins played six times throughout their program history. They have split the six matchups. The teams last played in November of 2021 at Pauley Pavilion, where UCLA defeated Villanova, 86-77, in overtime. 5-2 UCLA has not played since November 30th when they defeated UC Riverside by just one point. Although they were heavy favorites to defeat UC Riverside, UCLA’s two losses came against tough opponents and were tight games.
UCLA’s 5-2 Start
The Bruins lost to #4 Marquette, 71-69, on November 20th. They also lost to #11 Gonzaga, 69-65, on November 22nd. Both ranked losses took place in the Allstate Maui Invitational. UCLA’s wins have not been against the toughest opponents: St. Francis PA, Lafayette, Long Island, Chaminade, and UC Riverside; however, the Bruins confidently won all of those games besides their most recent against UC Riverside.
UCLA averages 71 points per game. They have four scorers averaging at least ten points per game. Their leading scorer is Sebastian Mack. Mack, who has started in six of the seven games, averages 14.7 points per game and 4.7 rebounds. Adem Bona, Lazar Stefanovic, and Dylan Andrews are the other three scorers averaging double-digits for UCLA.
Lazar Stefanovic is the Bruins most balanced scorer. He averages 11.1 points per game while shooting 40% from the field and 37% from three. UCLA is shooting just 31% from the behind the arc and they do not attempt many threes, but Stefanovic is a threat from behind the arc. He also averages about six rebounds per game. Stefanovic and Bona are UCLA’s best rebounders, but the Bruins only average 36 rebounds per game compared to Villanova’s 38 rebounds per game.
UCLA’s Biggest Strength: Their Defense
UCLA’s strength is their defense. They are ranked #4 in the country in fewest points allowed per game at 57.9 points per game. Their field goal percentage defense is ranked #13 in the nation.
Now for Villanova. The Wildcats desperately need to find a way to end this losing streak. Their loss against Kansas State in overtime was the best they have looked since the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, but it still was not good enough to get back into the win column. Villanova has really depended on the three this season, especially in their last three games. They took six more three-point attempts than two-point attempts in the first half against Kansas State. However, Villanova found offense in the second half when they moved the ball around, made their way to the basket, and did not depend on the three as much.
Justin Moore Injury Update
UCLA has some advantages heading into this game like the week of rest since November 30th. They also have an amazing defense. According to the Villanova Men’s Basketball Official X account, Justin Moore has been ruled out for tonight’s game against the Bruins with a right knee sprain. Moore averages 13.3 points per game and almost 30 minutes per game this season. The Wildcats will have the find some offensive production without him to keep up with UCLA’s defense.
Keys to the Game for Villanova
As Coach Neptune noted in his post-game press conference from Kansas State, Villanova stepped up in Moore’s absence during the second half of that game. Jordan Longino and Hakim Hart played well in that second half. Longino now averages the third most points on the Wildcats with 9.6 per game. Eric Dixon still leads Villanova with 14 points per game. The keys to a Wildcats win are to drive to the basket/win the battle in the paint and get to the free throw line.
Villanova has better rebounding numbers and less turnovers than UCLA per game, but they must find a way to score against the Bruins’ defense. I think finding ways to get into the paint like they did against Kansas State in the second half will force UCLA to get into some foul trouble. It won’t be easy with their great defense, but Villanova should look to Eric Dixon, TJ Bamba, and Jordan Longino in this one to find ways to create offense and not depend on the three as much. If the Wildcats can find some consistency like the second half against Kansas State, they should win this game; however, UCLA is a tough team that focuses on defense, so it most likely will be a close game late.
This game against UCLA is Villanova’s final non-conference match of the season. They begin Big East play on December 20th against Creighton. WXVU has live coverage of Villanova vs. UCLA tonight beginning at 6:30pm with the pregame show followed by tipoff at 7pm.