Wednesday, February 08, 2006

UCLA vs. Washington St. - Game Preview

By Bruin Basketball Report

The No.12 ranked UCLA Bruins travel to Pullman for a game against the Washington St. (WSU) Cougars Thursday night.

In the Cougars last game on Friday, WSU defeated then No.15 ranked Washington, 77-64, to complete its first sweep of the Huskies in 12 years.

When WSU recorded a victory over Washington back in early January at Seattle; they held a record of 7-2 and were among the leaders in the conference. But since that time, the Cougars have sandwiched in six consecutive losses to Pac-10 teams between the two wins over Washington.

In an earlier meeting between the teams in January at Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins held on to a 63-61 victory when WSU’s Kyle Weaver missed a potential game-tying lay-up in the final seconds of the game.

The Bruins have won the last three games against the Cougars by a total margin of only eight points. Both conference games between the teams last year were determined in overtime.

Coach Ben Howland knows the upcoming game against the Cougars in Pullman is a dangerous one.

“Washington St. is a good team and well coached.” Howland said. “We crushed them by a whole two points”, he said with a grin “when we last faced them at home.”

In the first meeting, WSU’s 5’10 guard Josh Akognon single-handedly shot the Cougars back into the game after his team fell behind 17 points. Akognon hit 6 of 8 three pointers and scored all 25 of his points in the second half.

The Bruins knew little about Akognon before that game other than hearing how he had shot the lights out against Washington the week prior. Look for coach Ben Howland to be better prepared for him this time around.

Akognon consistently got open looks in the second half of the game; however, one can be rest assured Akognon will have a powdered-blue jersey shadowing him the entire game on Thursday.

Akognon became a starter when the Cougars' starting point guard, Derrick Low, broke his right foot in practice.

Although he is a better scorer than Low, the sophomore Low seems to be a better fit for WSU’s methodical style of play, and is a better defender than Akognon.

There is a slight chance Derrick Low may return from his injury for the UCLA game - although it would be for only limited minutes.

Besides Akognon, no other Cougar scored double-figures in the earlier contest. 6’10 Robbie Cowgill, the Cougars second leading scorer, was held to only 2 of 8 shooting by UCLA’s 6’5 freshman Michael Roll.

Shooting guard Kyle Weaver (6’5, 185) provides another potential scoring threat for the Cougars, he averages just under ten points a game. He had 9 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists against the Bruins in their first meeting.

With Cedric Bozeman presently in the starting lineup in place of Roll, the Bruins will most likely start Bozeman on Weaver, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute on Cowgill, and have Arron Afflalo guard the high-scoring Akognon on the perimeter.

The Cougars have started Aron Baynes (6’10, 240) a wide-body from Australia in the last two games. He responded by recording a double-double in scoring and rebounding in both games. Baynes played only 14 minutes in the last meeting at Pauley.

UCLA’s Ryan Hollins will have his hands full with Baynes who likes to throw his weight around in the low post. However, Hollins has been playing the best basketball of his UCLA career in recent games, especially on the defensive end.

WSU leads the Pac-10 in FG% defense allowing only 40% and is third in points allowed at 62.3 per game. The Bruins have supplanted the Cougars as the stingiest defense in the league allowing only 61.1 points per game.

While the Cougars are last in the conference in points scored at 61.0 points per game, the Bruins lead the conference in scoring margin at +6.5.

Arron Afflalo broke out of a mini-shooting slump against Arizona by scoring a career-high 27 points in leading the Bruins to a victory over the Wildcats.

Sophomore guard Jordan Farmar is questionable for the game in Pullman. He sprained his left ankle in the Arizona game and his playing status against WSU will be a game-time decision.

After Thursday the Bruins travel to Seattle for a re-match with the Washington Huskies on Saturday.

Game notes: Not counting neutral site games, the Bruins are 5-0 on the road. Senior forward Cedric Bozeman sat out eight games this season because of an injured left shoulder, and in games he has played, the Bruins are 14-1.



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