With Jimmer Fredette leading the way, BYU hasn’t been truly challenged by an opponent in more than two weeks.
Looking to stay undefeated, the 16th-ranked Cougars will see how they respond to a week layoff Saturday when they take on UCLA as part of the Wooden Classic at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
The Cougars (10-0) provide a high-profile opponent for UCLA as it plays this event named for the legendary Bruins coach for the first time since John Wooden died over the summer. UCLA is 9-4 all-time in the Wooden Classic, including 1-4 when unranked, and lost 72-54 to Mississippi State last December to snap a four-game winning streak in the event.
BYU is looking to open with 11 straight wins for the first time since going 17-0 to begin the 1987-88 season. The Cougars have won their last three games by at least 20 points since a 77-65 road victory over Creighton on Dec. 1 in a game which was tied midway through the second half.
BYU will be looking to beat a second straight Pac-10 opponent following an 87-65 victory over Arizona last Saturday. Fredette scored a season-high 33 points after scoring 26 in the previous game against Vermont. The 6-foot-2 senior also had a career-high nine rebounds against the Wildcats.
“BYU is a great team,” UCLA coach Ben Howland said. “They are very well coached. … That kid Fredette, he’s an All-American. So it will be a real challenge.”
Fredette is one of the nation’s top scorers with 23.7 points per game. Last Saturday marked the 10th time in his career and second this season he’s reached 30 points.
“He is a terrific guard,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “Today was just another example of how well he can play offensively. He makes everything easier for his team … He is just clever with the ball in his hands and has a good supporting cast.”
The cast includes Kyle Collinsworth, who had 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting against Arizona. Averaging 7.3 points, Collinsworth has reached double figures in three of the last five games.
While Noah Hartsock had to leave the floor after being elbowed in the mouth and suffering a concussion, he’s expected to play Saturday to provide BYU with a potentially much-needed inside presence against UCLA. The 6-8 Hartsock is averaging 9.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and a team-leading 1.9 blocks.
“This will be a tough, really physical game,” coach Dave Rose said. “The biggest key is we’ve got to be tough.”
UCLA’s top two scorers and rebounders are 6-8 forwards Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson, who combine to average 29.1 points and 16.7 boards. They’ve helped the Bruins (5-4) outrebound each of their last two opponents by 15.
They won both of those games - over Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UC Davis - after a four-game losing streak. That skid included both of UCLA’s games this season against Top 25 teams, falling 82-70 to then-No. 7 Villanova on Nov. 24 and 77-76 at then-No. 4 Kansas on Dec. 2.
That loss to the Jayhawks, though, began what has turned into a solid stretch for freshman center Joshua Smith. He’s averaged 12.0 points and 10.0 rebounds in the last four games, collecting 27 offensive boards.
These teams have split 22 all-time meetings. The Bruins won the last matchup with the Cougars, 82-69 in 2006.