Wednesday, February 06, 2008

UCLA vs. Washington State - Game Preview

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Kicking off the second-half of the Pac-10 conference season, No.4/5 UCLA travels up to Pullman to take on the No.17 Washington State Cougars in a Thursday night match-up.

Washington State (17-4, 5-4), ranked as high as No.2 this season, has dropped three of its last four games, including two at home last week.  They are tied for third-place in the conference with USC and Arizona.

The Cougars lost 69-64 to California on Thursday and then bowed out to Stanford 67-65 in a tough overtime defeat over the weekend. In both games, the Cougars were cold from three-point distance, shooting a combined 8 of 32 for a frigid 25% from beyond the arc.

Against Stanford the Cougars shot just 34% from the field overall and were outrebounded 42 to 16 by the Cardinal, yet Washington State still had a chance to put the game into a second overtime but guard Taylor Rochestie's end-to-end driving lay-up rolled off the rim as time expired.

Washington State hopes to regain their shooting touch and try to rebound against the Bruins on Thursday night.

In the their first meeting at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA (20-2, 8-1) beat the Cougars, 81-74.  The Bruins started the game quickly overwhelming the Cougars on the perimeter with aggressive ball pressure while building a lead as large as 18 points. 

But then with under two minutes remaining in the game, the Cougars made a remarkable seven consecutive three-point shots to pull within three-points before the Bruins finally pulled away for the final winning margin.  Freshman Kevin Love had a dominating performance scoring 27 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the win.

Despite their recent shooting woes, the senior-laden Cougar team remains tough to beat especially at home in Pullman - mainly a result of their outstanding defense.

Coach Tony Bennett's team plays a tough brand of man-to-man defense that applies pressure on the ball while aggressively playing the passing lanes.

Washington State enters this week leading the conference and ranked third in the nation in points allowed per game at 55.2 while holding opponents to 41.1% field goal shooting.

The Cougars boast three double-digit scorers on the offensive end.  Derrick Low (6'2, 196, Sr) leads the offense with 13.9 points per game. Kyle Weaver (6'6, 201, Sr) and Aron Baynes (6'10, 270, Jr) are adding 11.9 and 11.4 points per game, respectively.

Low is a tough competitor whom the Cougars look to for the big shots.  He has developed a quick shot release over his career and is tough to guard as he uses screens effectively to ward off defenders.  He's shooting almost 40% from beyond the arc.

Russell Westbrook will get the assignment against Low. Westbrook did a good job of shutting down high-scoring freshmen James Harden and Jerryd Bayless in last week's Bruin wins over both Arizona schools.

Kyle Weaver is a good ballhandler and a solid distributor but the spider-like Weaver is known for his defense.  He will be matched-up against UCLA's best perimeter scorer, Josh Shipp.

UCLA's Kevin Love had his way with the Cougars in the Bruin win earlier this year with 27 points and 14 rebounds.  He dominated Aron Baynes on both ends of the floor holding him to just 8 points.  If Love duplicates his effort again on Thursday against Baynes the Bruins will be tough to beat.

Point guard Taylor Rochestie is chipping in 9.2 points an outing while leading the league in assists with 5.2 dishes a game.  He is hitting 45.8% from three-point distance.  Darren Collison did a good job at Pauley Pavilion pressuring Rochestie and preventing him from getting into any rhythm during the game.

Starting at the power forward spot is rail-thin Robbie Cowgill (6'11, 211, Sr) is a tough competitor who is a good help defender and shot blocker.  Daven Harmeling (6'7, 216, Jr)  is the first Cougar off the bench and is averaging 7.0 pointer per game.

UCLA will be without Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for both games this week in Washington. Mbah a Moute suffered a sprain ankle in the second half of the Arizona game on Saturday.  Without Mbah a Moute, the Bruins are missing one of their best perimeter defenders and also rebounders. 

Sophomore Nikola Dragovic should see extended action on the wing this week, in addition, freshman Chace Stanback will also see time on the floor.

The Cougars are still licking their wounds from their two home losses last week to Cal and Stanford.  Washington State's defense will help keep them in most games even when their offense is struggling.  If the Cougars regain their outside shooting touch on Thursday, this will be the marquee game most expected to see at the start of conference play when both teams were ranked in the top-five.

Game Preview from 1/11/08
Game Summary from 1/12/08

Date: Feb. 7
UCLA vs Washington St.
Time: 7:30 PM PT
Place: Pullman, WA
Radio: AM 570

(photo credit: WSU Athletics)



At Feb 6, 2008, 3:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

UCLA by 5

At Feb 6, 2008, 4:42:00 PM, Anonymous BruinFan said...

They want revenge....keep playin that unselfish bball, penetrate the lanes...put a hand in their face when they shoot a 3...and we'll be good....
Treat this as a NCAA final 4 game Bruins....
Mata, u r da man...gr8 article in the LA Times....heart=u... take some charges, and tell ya boys to "D" up....ON EVERY POSSESSION.....
DC, RW, JS, KL...bring it on!!!!!
-BruinFan...I'm pumped....tko them out early but play defense after that....

At Feb 6, 2008, 5:09:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wazzo by -11.

At Feb 6, 2008, 8:44:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wazzo... opps, meant Wazzu.

At Feb 6, 2008, 10:01:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

W. St. finds their 3 point shot again, but it will not be enough. Love pounds them from the inside while Darren lights it up from the outside. Game will only be close due to W. St. 3's... other than that, UCLA will dominate and ends up winning this one by 8.

At Feb 6, 2008, 11:45:00 PM, Anonymous BruinBlue said...

If the Bruins continue their unselfish play they will be hard to beat. But some here might be underestimating the loss of Luc on D, not that WSU is an offensive juggernaut.


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