Friday, February 10, 2006

UCLA vs. Washington - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The UCLA Bruins face the Washington Huskies in a Pac-10 conference contest between two top 25 ranked teams.

No.23 Washington (17-5, 6-5) won the first meeting between the teams at Pauley Pavilion in January, 69-65. The Bruins led by as much as 14 points in the second half but the Huskies fought their way back for the victory. Washington also beat UCLA in Seattle last year, 82-70.

The No.12 Bruins (20-4, 10-2) are coming off a 50-30 trouncing of the Washington St. (WSU) Cougars on Thursday in which UCLA played it’s best defensive game of the year. The Bruins held WSU to only 27% shooting.

Washington is coming off their own victory on Thursday night beating the USC Trojans 87-73. The Huskies were up by as much as 27 points in the second half but allowed the Trojans to get back into the game.

"We've got to stop trying to cruise so much," Huskies’ senior Brandon Roy said. "Right now, we're just doing some of the things it takes to win."

After learning how UCLA easily dispatched WSU on Thursday, a team which swept their series against Washington this year, Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar said, "We don't have any options on Saturday; we have to do it for 40 minutes,"

Before beating USC on Thursday, the Huskies had lost three straight games. They trail the first place Bruins by 3.5 games in the Pac-10 conference. Washington leads the conference in points scored per game with 75.9 points.

The Huskies are led by senior guard Brandon Roy who leads the Pac-10 conference in scoring with 22.6 points per game. He also averages 5.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

Roy has an excellent mid-range jumper and has improved his 3-point shooting dramatically this year - he leads the Huskies in three-point FG% shooting at 41.7%.

In the last game between the two teams, Roy was held to only 10 points on 3 of 9 shooting by UCLA’s Arron Afflalo. However, Roy has been on fire, scoring over 20 points in each of his last four games.

Afflalo’s defense has been magnificent all season. Against WSU he locked down Josh Akognon, who had earlier scored 25 against the Bruins, to only 4 point. The Bruins will need another big defensive stop from Afflalo on Saturday.

Senior forward Jamaal Williams (6’6, 235) is second on the team in scoring with 13.5 points per game. With his physique he presents a tough match-up inside for most teams; and against the Bruins earlier he scored 14 points on 7 of 11 shooting.

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will get the starting assignment against Williams, but this time he will get back-up support from his fellow freshman countryman Alfred Aboya.

Aboya played only 7 minutes against Washington at Pauley before he left the game with an apparent sprained knee. At 6’8 245 Aboya is an active and physical defensive presence in the paint and matches up well against Williams.

Aboya wasn’t the only injured Bruin in the earlier game against Washington. When Aboya left in the first half with his injury, the Bruins were left with only eight scholarship players in the game which included centers Ryan Hollins and Michael Fey who were just returning from their own injuries.

Senior forward Cedric Bozeman also did not play in the game due to an injury. Bozeman has been a key ingredient to the Bruin's success since his return fives game ago.

The Bruins have won every game since his return; and for the season, the Bruins are 15-1 when Bozeman is in the line-up.

"He means everything to this team," said Afflalo. "He's our leader, our defensive stopper. He's so valuable.''

In this game, Bozeman will be looked upon by his teammates to help steady the team on offense from his point-forward spot and to take the assignment of guarding Washington’s Bobby Jones.

Jones averages 11.1 points a game and scored a key late basket off a rebound in the previous match-up. He is a streaky shooter, yet he can take over games for the Huskies when he gets hot.

But Bozeman, coupled with Afflalo, gives the Bruins an advantage of two outstanding defensive players who can shut down an opponent’s best scorer. An advantage the Bruins did not have in the previous game against Washington.

Washington’s leading candidate for freshman of the year, Jon Brockman is averaging 9.4 points and 7.4 rebounds a game; however, he has been inconsistent and has had problems with foul trouble at times. Against USC, Brockman had only 2 points and 4 rebounds to go along with 4 turnovers.

The Huskies view this game as a must-win for them , as in a must-win to ensure an NCAA tournament berth. With an overall record of 17-5 and Pac-10 record of 6-5, all of Washington’s losses have come in Pac-10 conference play. Coach Lorenzo Romar's Huskies know they must finish at least above .500 in Pac-10 conference play to be even considered for the NCAA postseason.

For the Bruins, the game against the Huskies is not only an important Pac-10 conference game, but it is against a top 25 ranked team which gives them the opportunity to improve upon their ranking and seeding for the upcoming NCAA tournament. Unless the California Bears continue their winning ways, Washington may be the last top 25 ranked team the Bruins play for the rest of the regular season.

After this game the Bruins do not play until February 19 when they face USC at the Sports Arena.



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