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12:00 PM PT1:00 PM MT2:00 PM CT3:00 PM ET8:00 PM GMT4:00 PM 北京时间1:00 PM MST3:00 PM EST, Dec 22, 2018
United Center, Chicago, Illinois  Attendance: 15,124

No. 15 Ohio State faces slumping UCLA in Chicago

(AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Two programs that appear to be headed in opposite directions are set to collide on Saturday when No. 15 Ohio State travels to Chicago to face UCLA as part of the annual CBS Sports Classic at the United Center.

The Buckeyes, under second-year coach Chris Holtmann, are off to a 10-1 start, with their only loss being to Syracuse in late November. Since then, they've won four in a row.

UCLA (7-4) suffered its third-worst loss under sixth-year coach Steve Alford on Wednesday night in a 29-point rout, 93-64, at unranked Cincinnati. The Bruins also lost their previous game at home to Belmont last Saturday before beginning their trip to the Midwest.

The lackluster performance at Cincinnati left Alford and at least one of his players frustrated. Alford was criticized for his comments after that game that seemingly pointed a finger at the team rather than the coaching staff.

"If you lose, you get in the gym on your day off and you figure things out, not wait and get in the gym when we meet with you," Alford said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "You've got to do things as a player to figure things out. It's not an AAU game where you're going to get beat and you play again at night. It's a totally different animal and guys are just going through it for the first time, they're trying to learn that."

UCLA's slump has led this week to increased criticism of Alford's coaching and his inability to develop a talented roster, leading to some speculation that he might be ousted after this season.

Alford also tried to blame the loss at Cincinnati on what he said were six of 10 players experiencing a true road environment for the first time. Whatever the case, the Bruins' lack of defensive intensity was reflected in the Bearcats shooting 52.4 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from 3-point range.

Kris Wilkes, UCLA's leading scorer at 17.7 points per game after finishing with 21 against Cincinnati, pointed to what seemed to be a lack of motivation, saying, "I don't think we all came to play and it showed."

UCLA will have to turn things around in a hurry against Ohio State, which is coming off a 75-56 victory over Youngstown State on Tuesday night at home.

Kaleb Wesson, the Buckeyes' leading scorer and rebounder this season, scored a career-high 31 points against the Penguins despite leaving briefly for the locker room to have a cut on his upper lip stitched.

Holtmann is concerned about the size disparity that Wesson and Ohio State will face Saturday. UCLA is one of the biggest teams in the country along with Syracuse, which gave Ohio State trouble in late November.

Seven-footer Moses Brown is UCLA's leading rebounder (9.4 per game) and second leading scorer (11.8 points per game) this season.

"I think their length is terrific," Holtmann told reporters Thursday. "Big wings, obviously the big fella inside that (has a) 7-6 wingspan and then their wings and their point guard is big and it's 6-8, 6-9.

"I do anticipate that being a challenge for us and something we're going to have to handle. We've talked a lot about our lack of length across the board, and we went into the season knowing that was going to be a bit of an issue."

Ohio State's 6-foot-9, 270-pound Wesson and 6-8 Kyle Young are the most experienced frontcourt players on a perimeter-oriented team.

UCLA hasn't fully used its size as an advantage, which is reflected in opponents averaging 73.0 points per game. Still, Holtmann knows Ohio State will need help from its bench and wing players.

"You have to play smart," he said. "You have to be able to hopefully play with a little bit of pace to where their size defensively hopefully isn't much of a factor. Not aware of it to the point where you're passive, but you have to be aware of how they can change shots. On the defensive glass, that's a concern for us. They're a very good offensive rebounding team."

Young and forward Andre Wesson were banged up in the past two games but should be good to go Saturday. Young took a hard fall on Tuesday and played only 15 minutes. Wesson had dental work done this week after having two teeth knocked out and one cracked last Saturday.

"He's on the mend and doing fine," Holtmann said of Wesson, Kaleb's older brother.

The teams played in the CBS Sports Classic in 2016 in Las Vegas, with the Bruins winning 86-73.

Updated December 22, 2018

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