Wednesday, January 11, 2006

UCLA vs. Washington St. - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The UCLA Bruins (13-2, 3-1) play host to the Washington St. (WSU) Cougars (9-3, 2-1) at Pauley Pavilion on Thursday, Jan.12.

The Cougars are coming off a huge upset 78-71 win over the previously No.10 ranked Washington Huskies in Seattle. The Cougars earned four points in this week's ESPN/USA Today Coaches' poll, and if you’re counting, it would make them unofficially ranked No.41 in the nation.

The Bruins will try to overcome the loss of sophomore forward Josh Shipp. Shipp stunned Bruin fans yesterday when it was announced he would miss the remainder of the season after deciding the pain in his hip was unmanageable.

"It's been something that's been lingering in my mind for a while," Shipp said in a statement issued by the school Tuesday. "For the Stanford and Cal games, I really didn't feel comfortable, but I wanted to go out there and try and help the team get a win.

UCLA will file for a medical hardship petition on behalf of Shipp. To gain medical hardship, a player must typically play in less the 20 percent of the team's games that season, and he can't appear in a game past midway through the season.

If Shipp were to play Thursday against Washington State, he would no longer be eligible for the medical hardship waiver

In addition to the loss of Shipp, Cedric Bozeman will be out at least 2-3 more weeks with a shoulder injury. Ironically, Bozeman’s shoulder was injured in a collision with Shipp during a practice.

Howland said Tuesday he had not decided who would start against Washington State, but he has several options.

Without Shipp and Bozeman, the Bruins may play more of a three guard line-up with Darren Collison, Michael Roll, and Janou Rubin logging more minutes.

Another option would be Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (he was recruited as a wing player) sliding down to the three spot at times with Alfred Aboya playing more minutes at the power forward position.

The WSU Cougars also recently suffered a major loss in their roster when starting point guard Derrick Low broke his right foot in practice last week. Low was the Cougars leading scorer at 10.5 ppg and was shooting 47% from 3PT, averaging 3.8 apg and 1.4 spg. He was tops on the team in minutes played with 33.2 minutes per game.

But in the Cougar's upset victory over Washington, Low's teammates stepped up in his place.

Josh Akognon (So, 5’10, 198), who had scored in double-figures only 3 times in the previous 12 games, shot 6 -10 from 3PT - including a tie-breaking 3PT with 16 seconds left, finished with a game-high 27 points. Akognon was named Pac-10 player of the week for his performance.

WSU guard Kyle Weaver also scored a career-high 19 points and center Robbie Cowgill chipped in 12 points and 7 rebounds against the Huskies as the Cougars won at Washington for the first time since 1994.

WSU head coach Dick Bennett is aware that his team might slide backward after shocking Washington. "There is the danger of the letdown," Bennett said. "History has proven time and again that it's quite difficult to follow up a special performance or victory with another really good performance."

The Cougars have a patient offense which takes smart shots, and a relentless, suffocating defense that gets under the skin of opponents, wearing them down.

Although the Cougars are last in the Pac-10 in scoring at 64.6 ppg, they own a plus 9.1 scoring margin over opponents due to one of the stingiest defenses in the nation.

WSU leads the Pac-10 in scoring defense (55.5 ppg), field goal percentage defense (36.8%), 3-point field goal percentage defense (29.1%), and blocked shots (4.92 bpg).

The Cougars offense doesn’t score many points but it’s efficient. WSU shoots very well from the outside, they lead the Pac-10 in 3PT FG% (40.5%) and are third in total FG% (47..3%).

Aside from the injured Low, no other Cougar player averages more than 10 points per game.

Sophomore center Robbie Cowgill (6’10, 208) is a cagey slim jim who is averaging 9.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 1.3 bpg.

Guard Kyle Weaver (So, 6’5, 185) is averaging 9.4 ppg and leads the team in rebounds with 4.8 rpg and assists 4.1 apg.

In their first 12 games, the WSU bench was averaging over 25 ppg or over 40% of the total team points. The bench is lead by a tough forward, Ivory Clark (Jr, 6'5, 212) who averages 7.1 ppg and 4.3 rpg.

Against WSU it will be difficult for the Bruins to set an up-tempo game in their favor due to the patient and disciplined Cougar offense coached by Bennett.

The Bruins will need to minimize turnovers. They have the second most turnovers in the conference. With Jordan Farmar’s minutes limited and the pressure applied by the WSU defense, turnovers will be a major factor in this game.

WSU uses almost the entire shot clock before shooting and they like to shoot from long distance resulting in long rebounds opportunities. The Bruins must rebound well and limit any second chance points and opportunities since the scores will probably be in the 50s to low 60s.

WSU is patient on offense looking for defensive breakdowns, they make an opponent play defense for the entire shot clock - the entire game. The Bruins must remain disciplined and sustain a strong defensive effort throughout the game.

UCLA’s Arron Afflalo will get the starting defensive assignment against WSU's Weaver. Despite a scary fall in the ASU game in which he suffered a hip pointer, Afflalo will be ready to play against WSU - he practiced on Monday. Afflalo is the Bruin's leading scorer at 19.0 ppg.

Bruin Lorenzo Mata will start at center and play despite suffering a broken nose against ASU. Mata will wear a protective plastic mask in the game. Mata had one of his best games as a Bruin against ASU, he scored 7 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and blocked 2 shots in the win.

UCLA Men's Basketball Injury update report to follow later today.



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