The UCLA men’s basketball team will look to close out November with another early-season victory when it hosts UC Riverside on Thursday.
Here’s what you need to know about the nonconference matchup:
UCLA VS. UC RIVERSIDE
When: Thursday, 8 p.m.
Where: Pauley Pavilion
TV/Radio: Pac-12 Network/1150 AM
Records: UCLA is 4-2; UC Riverside is 3-4
UCLA’s latest result: The Bruins went 1-2 last week at the Maui Invitation in Honolulu, most recently losing to No. 11 Gonzaga, 69-65, on Nov. 22. Junior guard Lazar Stefanovic (Utah transfer) and freshman guard Sebastian Mack (Pac-12 Freshman of the Week) both had a team-high 16 points against Gonzaga. Stefanovic and freshman guard Ilane Fibleuil each had a team-high eight rebounds. In the four-point loss to Gonzaga, UCLA shot 35.2% from the field (19 for 54) and 28.6% from behind the arc (4 for 14). The Bruins shot 74.2% from the free-throw line (23 for 31).
UC Riverside’s latest result: UCR, from the Big West Conference, is coming off a 109-63 win against Bethesda University of Anaheim. Junior center Benjamin Griscti scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Highlanders in the team’s 46-point win against a National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) opponent. Griscti, who is 6-foot-11, is one of three starters, along with guards Barrington Hargress and Isaiah Moses who are averaging 10 or more points per game this season.
Matchup to watch: Freshman guard Ilane Fibleuil, who is from Massy, France, only played 18 minutes against Gonzaga but made an instant impact with six points, eight rebounds, two blocked shots and most importantly high-quality defense that drew praise from UCLA associate head coach Darren Savino.
“What you saw him do out there is kind of what we know that he can bring to the table,” Savino said. “He just had an opportunity to do it and he actually did it in a real game so if anything, I hope it gives confidence that the things we’ve been telling him that he’s really good at, things that he’s good at, now he believes it and he can go out there and do it in a real game.”
Fibleuil’s versatility could come in handy again, especially against UCR forwards like Will Tattersall, Kyle Owens, Vladimer Salaridze, Luke Turner and Kaleb Smith, who are listed between 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-9.
“I think defense, that’s what is going to win games so I’m trying to work on that right now,” Fibleuil said.
Fibleuil said he’s motivated to become an impact player because he’s wearing UCLA across his chest.
“By playing here, even having these four letters (UCLA) on your chest, it really makes you go hard every day,” Fibleuil explained. “You have to win games. You’re UCLA. We have to win like Coach said. I hate losing so you know when he’s saying we have to win, it’s UCLA, it motivates you even more to play hard and give 100% every night.”
UCLA trends to watch: UCLA has won their last 28 home games, which is the longest active home winning streak in the nation, which dates to January 2022. The Bruins went 17-0 at home last season, which was the 11th time in school history they went undefeated at Pauley Pavilion. After Thursday’s game, UCLA will spend more than a week preparing to play No. 18 Villanova in Philadelphia on Dec. 9.
“Before every game, Coach Nate (Georgeton), Coach Yogi (Jovanovic), tell me like if you want playing time, it’s the same for everybody really, if you want playing time, you have to play hard,” Fibleuil said. “It’s just how UCLA plays. You have to play hard, play defense, get back on defense, crash the board so it’s not just for me … it’s for everybody you have to play hard if you want to be on the floor. I know I have to play defense to have playing time to stay on the floor so that’s what I’m going to do.”