Friday, January 11, 2008

UCLA vs. Washington State - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

In a titanic match-up between two elite Pac-10 teams, No.5 UCLA plays host to No.4 Washington State on Saturday afternoon at Pauley Pavilion.

Russell Westbrook scored 18 points and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute added 17 points to lead UCLA to a 69-55 win over Washington on Thursday, however, a couple of Bruins got nicked up in the game.

Point-guard Darren Collison, who played despite limited practice time as a result of food poisoning earlier in the week, suffered a hip pointer early in the second-half. He did not return to the game and complained about the pain afterwards. In addition, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute bruised his knee during the contest.

Both players are listed as probable starters for tomorrow's game.

If either Collison or Mbah a Moute are unavailable tomorrow, UCLA Coach Ben Howland will need to dig deeper into his bench, and perhaps wing's Chace Stanback and Nikola Dragovic may see some significant playing against the Cougars.

Washington State (14-0, 2-0) is off to its best start since 1916-17. The Cougars beat USC, 73-58, at the Galen Center on Thursday night. Center Aron Baynes powered for 18 points and 9 rebounds and Taylor Rochestie added 12 points and 7 assists.

"Poise" is the word most often associated with the 2007-08 Cougars, and perhaps it has to do with a starting line-up composed of all upperclassmen.

"They play with poise." USC coach Tim Floyd said after their loss to the Cougars. "I don't remember them taking a bad shot."

Washington State starts three seniors, one redshirt junior, and one true junior. All these players are ingrained in the system Coach Tony Bennett, and his father Dick Bennett, brought to Pullman.

The Cougars are unselfish and extremely patient on offense, they are willing to use the entire clock, if necessary, to find a high percentage shot. The players are well coached and don't make many unforced mistakes. The team is averaging just 10.6 turnovers a game and against the Trojans they only committed 7.

But its on the defensive end where the Cougars have built their reputation.

Similar to the Bruins, they play a disciplined pressure man-to-man defense and emphasize staying in front of an opponent while forcing them into tough low percentage shots. Washington State has allowed teams to score just 50.4 points per game on a stingy 38.1% field goal shooting.

With both teams playing the same brand of disciplined, patient basketball, each possession of the ball takes on even more value. A defensive, low-scoring battle in the 50-60's is expected tomorrow.

The Cougars are a more balanced scoring team this year with the addition of a couple of players to the starting line-up, specifically Baynes and Rochestie.

Center Aron Baynes (6'10, 270, Jr), injured most of last season, is the most improved player on the team. He's providing the low post physical presence the team has been lacking. The native Australian has been impressive and efficient, he is averaging 12.1 points on 61.9% shooting and grabbing 6.6 rebounds a game.

A behemoth under the basket, Baynes will be matched up against UCLA's own 270lb center Kevin Love.

After getting the best of the center match-ups last week in the Bay area, Love had a quiet game against the Huskies on Thursday, getting six shot attempts and just two trips to the foul line. Love needs to do a better job making himself available for a pass by moving and rotating to the high post or corner from the low post. With the tough defense the Cougars adminster, the Bruins need Love to be active to help release some of the pressure on the ball.

Junior point-guard Taylor Rochestie (6'1, 186) is leading the Cougars in assists with 4.9 a game. Although Rochestie's biggest assist of the year came over the summer when he chose to give up his well-earned scholarship so the team could sign highly touted recruit, Marcus Capers.

Rochestie is the team's top three-point field goal shooter at a stunning 48.6%. He gives the Cougars another smart and solid ball handler on the floor as well as a deep threat.

The Cougars strong perimeter game makes the potential loss of Darren Collison even more meaningful. A healthy Collison gives the team a player who pressures the ball mercilessly. Without Collison, or even a gimpy Collison, it is a big set back for the team.

Teamed with Rochestie in the backcourt are veteran All Pac-10 team starters Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver.

Low (6'2, 196, Sr) is playing more shooting guard this season. An aggressive player who is willing to take the final shot, Low is the team's leading scorer at 12.7 points a game. While not shooting for a high percentage, its a bit deceiving since some of his shots come as the shot clock winds down and the Cougars need someone to take a shot.

A tough player off the bounce, Low can get into the paint and has good range out to three-point distance. He's shooting 40.2% from beyond the arc.

UCLA's Josh Shipp will get the initial look at Low, but only a few minutes will click off the clock before Russell Westbrook is inserted into the game to confront Low.

Spider-like Kyle Weaver (6'6, 201, Sr) is the team's best perimeter defender and perhaps best playmaker. With his length and agility, he disrupts offenses with simply his presence on the floor. Last season, he smothered UCLA's Arron Afflalo and he will attempt to do the same to Josh Shipp on Thursday.

Weaver is scoring 11.4 points on 47.2 shooting while averaging 4.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists a game.

At the final starting spot is forward Robbie Cowgill (6'10, 211, Sr). A very lean thin player, Cowgill no longer has to guard the opponent's biggest player an entire game due to the emergence of Baynes.

A solid player who does a lot of the little things to make a team successful, Cowgill is averaging 8.4 point on 64.8% shooting and 4.9 rebounds a game. With his length he gives the Cougars an effective weakside shotblocker.

Off the bench, the Cougars have former starter Daven Harmeling (6'7, 216, Jr) a three-point specialist. He fractured the thumb on his non-shooting hand in practice a few weeks ago and is playing with it bandaged. Against USC, he broke out of a shooting slump, sinking 5 of 7 from beyond the arc to key the Cougars win. Washington State also uses in reserve, Caleb Forrest (6'8, 228, Jr) and Nikola Koprivica (6'6, 211, So).

With Mbah a Moute and Collison, the Bruins are slight favorites at home against the Cougars, but without them, the game will hinge on how the team reacts to playing without them.

Russell Westbrook has proven in less critical games that he can handle the point-guard duties full-time. Forward Alfred Aboya will need to cut down on his fouls significantly to help make-up for the potential loss of Mbah a Moute' minutes while James Keefe will need to continue to improve his play on the court.

BBR Notes: Saturday will mark just the sixth time in Pac-10 history that a conference game will feature two top five teams when the No. 5 Bruins face off with the No. 4 Cougars. The last occurrence was in 2004 when fourth-ranked Stanford defeated No. 3 Arizona 82-72.

Date: Jan. 12
UCLA vs Washington State
Time: 11:30 AM PT
Place: Pauley Pavilion
Radio: AM 570

(photo credit: Cougars Athletics)



At Jan 11, 2008, 12:05:00 PM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

Bring it boyssssss!
I want Pauley to be rockin all game long!!!
Send 'em back to Washington....

At Jan 11, 2008, 12:35:00 PM, Anonymous Paul Johnson said...

Bruins are likely to go down. WSU is a team playing almost to perfection. Their greatest strength is their defense. They play defense with their feet and bodies. They play team defense. They don't want to give you anything inside. They very seldom foul so the other team gets few foul shots. All five players go for the boards on defense. On Offense they are very solid. They play patiently, don't turn the ball over and pass very well. They work for a high percent shot and don't take any bad shots. They have some good shooters who play within their abilities. They only send one and sometime two people after the rebound because they want to get back. They don't allow fast breaks. They are in the top 10 in the nation in many catagories; defense scoring, defense shooting, turnovers, assists, free throw shooting, and least fouls. Poise and consistency is the name of their game. An NBA scout was quoted as saying in the USC game, yea I was impressed with Mayo but did you see that other team?

At Jan 11, 2008, 12:53:00 PM, Anonymous Paul Johnson said...

It should be a close game. If WSU is tied or ahead with a couple minutes to go I would put my money on WSU. They are that poised and disciplined. The Bruin can beat them at the end if they can hit 2 or 3 three point shots in the last couple of minutes. If they miss them it is all over.

At Jan 11, 2008, 3:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tomorrow is a must win if we want to win the Pac-10 this year.

At Jan 11, 2008, 4:34:00 PM, Anonymous True Bruin Fan said...

Are you guys crazy. The Bruins are a two time Final-Four team. Name one legitimate game WSU has won to give them the respect these first few comments are showing them (Gonzaga, please). Yes the game will probably be close for the most part. However, there is no way UCLA is giving up this game on their homecourt. You doubters need to remember one thing, UCLA is a proven winner, WSU is just coming to the dance. UCLA wins this game by at least eight with some closing free throws, mark my words.

At Jan 11, 2008, 5:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your style True Bruin Fan.

At Jan 11, 2008, 6:01:00 PM, Anonymous dee said...

kudos to true bruin fan! while wash st is a better defensive team, UCLA have more weapons offensively to break the game open... as long as we don't have mental break downs or silly turnovers, UCLA still has the edge with the home crowd and better atheletes

At Jan 11, 2008, 6:31:00 PM, Anonymous I_am_Bruin said...

Dear Mr. Paul Johnson,
Please don't start every sentence with 'they.'
Also, paragraphs are your friend.
Ucla by 8.

At Jan 11, 2008, 6:35:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UCLA by 6

At Jan 12, 2008, 4:31:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Killin it so far. Keep that D tight!

At Jan 12, 2008, 6:15:00 AM, Anonymous BruinsWin! said...

Good lord that was some unreal shooting by Derek Low and WSU at the end. Had me scared. On the other hand, great CLUTCH FT shooting by Collison and Love to keep the lead intact.
What a monster day for Love. He was everywher at once. On the boards, at the line, in the post and even dropping two 3-pointers!
And I just can't run out of good things to say about Westbrook. He has turned into a phenom. It's like he's making it his mission to posterize someone every game.
Another very solid day from Luc and an excellent showing from Shipp.
Aboya is...well, he's out there. Had a nice Allie-oop but inexcusably gave up a 4-point play.
Anyway....had my heart beting fast at the end there but just a great showing for the Bruins.
This should jump us up to #3 over Kansas.

At Jan 12, 2008, 8:53:00 AM, Anonymous J MAGNO said...


At Jan 12, 2008, 9:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wazzu's 13 three pointers ties a league record. It will not happen again.

At Jan 12, 2008, 9:30:00 AM, Anonymous Brad said...

No one can play to perfection in the face of the Bruin defense. A team can look unstoppable against USC. And then come to Pauly and never get open. Their shooting at the end showed what they could do against average defenses.

At Jan 12, 2008, 9:50:00 AM, Anonymous Brad said...

This Just In.
Derek Lowe is finally open! But the Bruins have left Pauly.

At Jan 12, 2008, 10:42:00 AM, Anonymous Rome 06' said...

I mean the highlights, couldn't find them on espn

At Jan 12, 2008, 10:42:00 AM, Anonymous Rome 06' said...

Anybody have a link for video of this game?

At Jan 12, 2008, 11:41:00 AM, Anonymous Sunny said...

Check Fox sports.


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